Shortage of Registered Nurses in United States
Shortage of nursing professionals has been there for decades, but new developments will exacerbate the problem. The country is currently dealing with a population which is ageing, there has been an increase in the incidences of chronic diseases, the available nursing workforce is aging, and is set to retire anytime soon as well as limited capacity of training centers. This means that health care practitioners will be overstretched, something that may have serious implications on patients and the health care practitioners as well.
Currently, the nursing workforce in the country is estimated to be 3 million, this is the largest segment of medical staff; it is also the fastest growing. Its demand is fast outpacing the supply, a crisis is looming. Bureau of Labor statistics estimate that vacancies of more than 1.3 million of registered nurses will emerge in between 2014 and 2020. The shortfall will rise to levels which have never been experienced before since Medi care and Medcaid were introduced. With the baby boomers ageing the problem can only worsen. National Council of Aging estimates that sixty percent of the Medicare beneficiaries are person who are older than sixty five years, with most of them having multiple chronic conditions. These people need constant nursing care, when the nursing professional is outstretched one can only expect the worse. The available practitioners will be overworked and the quality of care may be affected. Patients as well as the health care workforce will be greatly affected.
Rising demand is just part of the crisis; the nursing workforce just like the clients they serve is also affected with the aging issue. More than one million nurses are over fifty years old; this means that a third of the workforce is expected to retire in the next 10 to 15 years. This means that the problem is set to worsen if no action is taken. Issue of gender will also arise as the biggest cohort which is set to retire is female, as they were employed when the career was predominately female.
One of the options available as far as finding the solution to this problem is concerned, is filling the positions which will be left by the retiring workforce. This may prove to be a herculean task as the capacity of training the nursing graduate s also overstretched. The nursing education system has limited capacity in terms of faculty, space and clinical sites as well as budget constraints; factors that may make it hard to increase the nursing cohorts. Replacement of the retiring nurses is also a problem as there is bound to be an experience gap out of recruiting fresh graduates. The retirees have years of experience and cannot be compared to the fresh graduates. This only exacerbates the problem; a working experience gap can affect the quality of care provided to the patient. Employers have the responsibility to ensure that the kind of care offered to the patient is not compromised due to lack of experience, there is a need to ensure that retirees effectively pass on this knowledge and experience to the younger cohorts.