The COVID pandemic has put a lot of stress and strain on healthcare systems around the world and it’s become clear just how big the problem is in the US in terms of the nursing shortage. Currently, new reports suggest that there are not enough nurses in the country to meet growing demands or development goals, and that was before a global pandemic hit.
In 2018, the World Health Organization found that around the world, we need six million more nurses in order for healthcare systems to be at their most efficient. The nurse shortage in the US has been at its worse over the past few years, and job openings for nurses are expected to exceed one million by 2030.
The shortage of nurses has been caused by several different reasons. One of the main reasons is the fact that the population is aging – and with it, so are some nurses, with many simply retiring out of the profession. In addition, there is a shortage of nurse educators in colleges and nursing schools at the moment, meaning that it has become difficult to provide the right education to those who want to become nurses in order to help reduce this shortage. Some of the main reasons behind why there’s a nursing shortage include:
Current Nurses Reaching Retirement Age:
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the average age of the nursing workforce today is around fifty. While this isn’t quite retirement age, today’s nurses are getting closer to retirement, and more and more nurses are deciding to retire at an early age for several reasons. For example, some older nurses are struggling to keep up with the emerging technologies in healthcare and many are ready to retire due to the increasing physical and mental demands of practicing nursing, particularly throughout a pandemic with a nurse shortage. By 2030, it’s expected that around one million nurses will have retired from the workforce.
Currently, there is a direct link between nursing education and the nursing shortage. Educators are needed all around the country to provide student nurses with the education that they need to get into this career path. Nursing schools in the US are currently turning down thousands of people who want to study to become nurses simply because they do not have the capacity to be able to teach them. According to Higher Ed jobs, there are around a thousand nurse educator job positions to be filled. Nurse educators are usually former nurses who have gained an advanced nursing degree program such as a DNP. They are a vital part of the nursing experience, and it is impossible to add new nurses to the workforce without them.
Today, people are living longer thanks to many medical science advancements. While the idea of having a longer life is always good news to hear, it’s also become a massive reason why we’re dealing with a serious shortage of nurses. Along with the fact that nurses themselves are getting older, there is also much more chronic disease, serious health conditions, and other health needs among the population today – nurses are struggling to keep up. Increasing the nursing workforce is essential to ensure that the population continues to have access to the care needed as it gets older.
Burnout and Overwork:
The shortage of nurses is also becoming a contributor. With the number of nurses lower than it should be, those who are working in the nursing profession are often finding themselves burned out, exhausted, and overworked from taking on the job that several people should probably be doing. The number of nurses that we have today is not enough to meet the growing, complex healthcare needs and requirements of the population, which is causing nurses to become even more exhausted working in a position where it feels like it’s impossible to do their job as well as they could.
After the COVID19 pandemic, in particular, it is no surprise that many nurses and healthcare professionals have chosen to leave the profession. While many of them might come back once the shortage situation has been relieved, it’s certainly not helping matters right now.
Is The World Affected By the Nursing Shortage?
While the US might be highlighted as the country that is hit quite hard by the current shortage of nurses, it’s not just an issue in this country. Currently, many countries all around the world are experiencing some kind of nursing shortage. Nurses currently make up around 50% of the healthcare workforce globally, but the WHO predicts that within the next ten years, the world is going to be around seven million nurses short.
What Started the Nursing Shortage?
According to the World Health Organization, there has always been periodic shortages throughout nursing. However, these have usually been resolved on their own. That is up until the last ten years, where the factors that are causing the nursing shortage have become too much to resolve quickly in a short period of time. Mainly, it’s due to the fact that many nurses are reaching retirement age and are deciding to take early retirement, paired with a population that is getting older and in need of more healthcare services. In addition to that, it has become impossible to train new nurses fast enough due to the shortage of nurse educators that we are currently dealing with. While healthcare organizations and academic training programs are working together to try and address this issue, serious changes need to be made in order to see an impact.
Where is Most Affected in the US?
Not every state in the US is as hard-hit by the nursing shortage. Since most nurses prefer to work in urban areas, this has led to rural and remote areas being the worst-off when it comes to access to healthcare, with more significant shortages here compared to cities and urban areas. In addition to this, over the past year, the COVID19 pandemic has made it clearer to see that there is also a problem with a lack of specialized nurses in many areas of the US. Throughout the pandemic, demand for nurses with the skill-set to deal with the acute needs of affected patients got much higher. According to studies, the lowest number of nurses can be found in Nevada, Georgia, and California. The highest number of nursing vacancies are open in Georgia, Texas, and New York.
Which Nurses are Needed Most?
Nurses in every department, specialty, and unit across the US are needed. Across the country, there is a shortage of registered nurses in almost every field of this profession, along with a shortage of nurse educators which is hitting the hardest due to the fact that we need these professionals desperately to educate new nurses and improve the situation by helping more nurses get into the workforce. Aside from registered nurses, more numbers of nursing faculty at colleges, universities, and nursing schools is one of the main issues that has led to nursing programs struggling to expand enrollment on both undergraduate and postgraduate programs.
Reasons to Join a Nursing Career:
Nurses make up the largest percentage of healthcare professionals around the world. They are essential in delivering healthcare and improving care delivery both now and in the future. With the shortage of nurses in the US growing at an alarming rate, there is a higher demand for competent, skilled, and educated nurses that is only going to grow further over time if significant changes are not made. Right now, those who want to become nurses are in a unique position to make a big difference to healthcare. Some of the main reasons to become a nurse today include:
- High Demand:
With the current shortage of nurses leading to more demand than ever before across the country, finding work as a nurse is never going to be difficult. Once qualified as nurse, you can expect to find work within around six months, according to statistics.
- Job Security:
The nursing shortage is making it clear to see just how much the healthcare system will suffer should nurses leave their positions. As a result of this, more and more healthcare employers are doing a lot to increase job security for nurses and encourage nurses to stay in their positions. In this role, you will not need to worry about being out of work.
- Competitive Salary:
The salary for registered nurses is currently very competitive as healthcare employers try to encourage more nurses into this profession. Currently, nurses earn an average of $80k per year. However, there is always the opportunity to increase this with various advanced nursing roles that are always available for nurses to move up into. You can earn significantly more in a role as a nurse practitioner, nurse manager, or nurse educator.
The shortage of nurses that we are currently experiencing has been caused by a number of different factors. If you are considering becoming a nurse, it has led to higher demand, better job security, and better pay for nurses.