The missing face of nursing...Approximately one out of every four nurses in the US is not working in nursing. If all the nurses who were able to work came back to nursing there would be no nursing shortage.
Nurse shortages have happened before. Ask anyone who was there in the 60’s, the 70’s or even the 80’s. There are even reports of nursing shortages in the 1940's. The advent of the Associate Degree Nurse was a direct result of the need for nurses during WWII. The difference between now and nurse shortages of past decades is that this shortage will go on longer and be much harder to fix than previous shortfalls.A number of experts and regulatory agencies are beginning to express deep concern over a number of alarming trends that are evident in the current nurse shortage.
Colleges Turn Applicants Away
Demand for nurses will continue to grow. This demand is being fueled by an aging population that has an increased need for expert health care. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that a shortage of nurse faculty is causing many colleges to turn applicants away. Nursing students are some of the most teacher and cost intensive as they require 1 instructor for every 8 students in the clinical setting. This high cost to student ratio has many colleges and institutions reluctant to commit to the higher level of funding required. The thinking is short term but predictable. And during a recession like we have in 2008 and 2009 it can only get worse. read the AACN Nurse Shortagesfact sheet
Download the AACN Nurse ShortagesFact Sheet to share with others.
Nurse Shortages Linked to Sentinel Events
An even more alarming statistic comes from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAHO) white paper “Healthcare at the crossroads” JCAHO states that 24% of the 1609 sentinel events reported to it (by March 2002) were the direct result of staffing shortages. A sentinel event is an unanticipated event that leads to death, injury or permanent loss of function. That translates into 386 people who died, were injured or suffered permanent loss of function simply because there were not enough nurses on duty; a grim reminder of the true cost of the nurse shortages.
Aging Population Requires More Nurses... But We Are
Not only are our patients aging… but so are we. The average age of a nurse in 2010 will be 50. As the nursing workforce continues to age one estimate is that by the year 2010 over 50% of the nurses currently working will be eligible for retirement. Many of them will eagerly bail out of a worsening work situation.
20 Percent Say "We Will Leave Nursing"
In recent surveys conducted by a number of organizations including the American Nurses Association and the American Federation of Teachers an alarming statistic reveals that approximately 1 in 5 nurses is planning to leave nursing within the next five years.
400,000 Nurses Needed
CBS News in a recent 60 minutes episode stated that by the year 2020 we will have a shortage of 400,000 registered nurses. The US Department of Health and Human Services stated that the nurse shortages predicted for 2007 were already being seen in the year 2000. The department of Health and Human Services predicts that a severe nursing shortage of 40% will exist by the year 2020.
117,600 Registered Nurses Don't Work As Registered Nurses
Of real significance is the fact that there are currently 490,000 registered nurses who are not working as nurses. 69% or 338,000 are over age 50. Only 7% of those not employed in nursing were actively seeking work as registered nurses. That means that approximately 24% (117,600) of the eligible nurses are choosing not to work as nurses.
Normal Supply and Demand Factors Don't Work in Nursing
What’s probably really alarming about the current nurse shortage is the fact that many employers don’t seem to be responding to the crisis in the typical marketplace driven manner. In a typical shortage of a special skill the market usually responds by increasing salaries and benefits. One look at the Information Technology explosion of the last several years shows the classic supply and demand earnings curve.
Yet, faced with comparable or worse registered nurse
shortages the healthcare industry has responded by cutting registered nursing
staff, increasing the use of unlicensed personnel, crying poverty, and “market
averages” as an excuse for keeping raises at or below the rate of inflation. The
average nurses’ salary saw no real increase in purchasing power from 1991 to
2000. From 2000 to 2004 wages did increase by 14% but it took over 10 years for
any real change in wages to be seen. An elementary school teacher has more wage
potential and upward mobility than a registered nurse according to the Health
and Human Services RN Project report.
Why We Leave Nursing
When questioned why they are leaving the field of nursing many respondents cite work related stress, abusive healthcare professionals (doctors primarily), inability to give quality care, forced overtime, poor working conditions, equipment, and low wages as the primary contributors to burnout.
It would be hard to find a comparable profession where approximately 20% of the work force is planning to quit and over 490,000 members don't work in the profession. The nursing shortage has many factors that contribute to the problem. Until nurses achieve better wages and working conditions it is unlikely that this problem will be solved.
On a positive note this creates a situation where nurses can make a career out of being a traveling nurse or temp nurse. Many nurses are taking advantage of the geographical nature of the shortage and taking traveling jobs in areas where nursing shortages are creating opportunities for nurses who like a challenge.