Despite being one of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S., the nursing workforce faces a potentially significant shortage of qualified nurses. This impending nurse shortage is largely due to the aging of the U.S. population, specifically the Baby Boomer generation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there will be more than 1 million vacancies for registered nurses happening between the span of 2014 to 2022. This is due to a large amount of current RNs in the Baby Boomer era reaching retirement age. According to The Atlantic the anticipated nursing shortage has been building up for a while and will continue to become a bigger problem. In fact, one in five americans will be a senior citizen in 2050. It is clearly a great time to be in the nursing field!

At the same time an aging population creates greater demand for healthcare services, a large segment of the nursing workforce is aging. As aging nurses retire, the strain of this eventual shortage will be felt even more. Additionally, retirement in the nursing sector was put on hold for many during the economic crisis, but now that the economy has recovered many nurses are finally able to comfortably retire, further adding to the loss of experienced nurses. The large amount of Baby Boomers that are now reaching older ages will also begin to require more care, meaning there will be more work for RNs.

Patient care is and will always be the primary goal of a healthcare facility. A lack of qualified RNs will result in more hospitals closing beds and therefore helping less patients at a time. Healthcare facilities last resort is to close beds, but they will not compromise patient safety for profit.

While more and more students set out to attain careers in nursing, universities can’t keep up with the demand due to a lack of qualified instructors. In addition to this lack of training, many universities do not have access to appropriate hospitals and clinics to physically train the graduates, leaving them unable to finish their degrees. Under the circumstances that students are lucky enough to have an environment to undergo proper training, most do not stray from their given local area. This problem with distribution consequently leads to the absence of properly trained nurses in rural and poor areas.

Although the nursing shortage is daunting, healthcare professionals have constructed potential solutions to the looming decline in registered nurses. One solution is to make the pursuit of a career in nursing more achievable for potential students. Currently, university nursing programs lack nursing faculty to train and educate aspiring nurses. If universities bolster their nurse training staff, they can expect to see an increase in the field of nursing.  Secondly, experts suggest incentivising nurses to pursue becoming nurse educators to fill the gap in this crucial training step during nurses’ pursuit of a degree. Lastly, the Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society of Nursing suggests that educators should reposition nursing as a profession where students can “learn science and technology, customer service, critical-thinking, and decision making” rather than simply a job to help others. By reframing the field of nursing as a more well-rounded career, more students entering undergraduate programs will be willing to consider it as a viable career choice.

Nurses are greatly appreciated and needed, and the more education and training that nurses can get, the better. Highly trained and experienced nurses will become invaluable in the upcoming nursing shortage. So RNs, take a big sigh of relief, because you are in high demand!

Originally posted on 28/3/2016

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