Without a doubt, nurses are in more demand than ever before and this is directly related to the continued shortage of nurses. Even as interest in attending nursing schools is rising, recent projections from early 2010 indicate that the nursing shortage in the United States will reach 340,000 by the year 2020.
Nursing Shortage FAQ
Why is the nursing shortage so pronounced? There are many reasons for it.
- First, with medical technology becoming more advanced, patients are living longer, but also their healthcare needs are becoming more complicated. Secondly, nursing schools and colleges are having difficulty meeting the enrollment demands to fulfill these needs.
- Another factor is the approaching retirement of a large sector of nurses already in practice. Since the average age of a nurse today is around forty-six years old, this means that a great number of nurses will be retiring at the height of the shortage.
- Also contributing to the nursing shortage is the lack of staff and facilities in sufficient quantities to meet the demands at colleges and universities. In 2006, an estimated 42,866 qualified students were turned away from bachelor’s degree and higher educational programs due to lack of staff and facilities.
What does this mean for the healthcare system and nursing in general?
- The nursing shortage will drive employers to increase salaries and offer incentives to hire and retain nurses. The more severe the shortage, the better the salaries and the incentives. This is good news for nurses choosing to enter the profession, for it translates into increased job security and increased financial reward.
What about the impact of the nursing shortage on the healthcare system in general?
- The nursing shortage will increase the cost of care as hospitals are forced to raise prices to compensate for the increase in salaries. As these costs are passed along to insurance companies, the prices paid in healthcare premiums by the healthcare consumer will begin to rise.
- In addition, the nursing shortage has been cited as one of the leading causes of medical errors. Surgical patients have been found to have better outcomes when more RN hours are spent at the bedside.
The good news is that many agencies on both the state and national levels are beginning to look at the problem.
- This is paving the way for increased funding for colleges and universities to enlarge facilities and attract qualified instructors. Direct incentives to students to enter nursing school are being seen, such as loan forgiveness programs.
The future looks promising for students seeking to enter the nursing profession; the biggest challenge that students may face is being able to win a coveted spot in a nursing program. A prospective student would be well advised to keep their grades as high as possible and make sure their record is academically sound.