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Less than a decade ago, people who were enrolling in nursing school were being told that they were crazy. They were told that the job was brutal, and that there simply were no jobs out there for nurses straight out of the Registered Nurse training programs.
Well, flash forward to the end of the first decade of the new century. Prognosticators who study the healthcare industry have been predicting for a while that the situation with regards to the availability of jobs for nurses was going to change- and boy, has it! Health care providers such as hospitals and nursing homes are waking up to the realization that as people leave nursing positions, it’s becoming very hard to fill those positions with new, qualified nurses. This has led to extreme competition for qualified nurses, and not only on a local (national) but worldwide scale.
The benefit of the shortage, to nurses, will be an improved future work environment, as employers try to better conditions in order to attract quality candidates. However, in the short-term, it’s putting a lot of strain on everyone and may actually exacerbate the frustrations nurses may have, which may cause them to not only leave their jobs but also discourage others from becoming nurses.
In order to ensure that the current crisis in nursing does not continue much further into the future, the two areas of retention and recruitment need to be addressed. This article will take a look at some of the topics that come up among nurses when it comes to addressing these issues.
Making sure that nurses are happy within their current career in nursing so that they stay in the profession is vital to stabilize the crisis. With anywhere from 25-40% of nurses are expected to retire over the next ten years, ensuring that younger members of the work force stay at their jobs is more important than ever.
The general public is coming to the realization that nurses play just as important a role in the healthcare system as doctors and other medical professionals do, and the industry is starting to realize it, as well. Many nurses complain that they are not accorded the level of respect they deserve, as nursing is seen as less of a “profession” and more of a “job”. Physicians are often guilty of this, making nurses feel as if they are simply there to mechanically carry out the doctor’s orders, and nothing more. As the system loses more and more nurses, it will become more and more important to grant those remaining the appropriate level of respect.
A benefit of the current nursing shortage (if you can consider it a benefit) is that non-nurses are finally starting to realize how rigorous the training and testing processes for becoming an RN are. It takes just as long to become a nurse as it does to earn a B. A., B.S., or any other undergraduate degree!
Another oft-cited concern of professional nurses is that the conditions in their places of work are very poor. In this case, work conditions do not apply to the many different situations a nurse will have to put up with from patients during a course of a day; rather, they concern areas of the job that are directly informed by management policy, such as hours of work, nurse to patient ratio, the use of support staff, and the condition of equipment.
A standard nurse’s schedule includes a combination of both day and night shifts. Clearly, it’s impossible to run a medical facility without nurses, so it isn’t as if the night shift can just be eliminated. However, some suggestions for parity include paying extra for nurses that work the night shift, or adding a third “swing shift” to the rotation so that the night shift is not as long as the day shift is.
Continued increases in the budget of the United States government in the area of health care are tagged to help resolve, among other things, the concerns of nurses both with support staff and with equipment. The job of a nurse involves quite a lot of lifting, so it is incredibly important if any nurses are going to make it through to retirement while still holding on to jobs in nursing that the equipment available in the hospital eases their burden in this area. Many nurses find that they are also doing duties that are traditionally thought of as the responsibilities of receptionists and orderlies, and in order for nurses to attend to their nursing duties, sooner or later facilities will have to streamline funds so that these support levels are taken care of by staff other than nurses.
In the short term, the nurse to patient ratio will continue to be the biggest problem concerning both nurses and patients. The nursing shortage means that most facilities cannot fill vacant positions needed in order to bring the ratio down to a level that nurses are comfortable with. However, by properly addressing the issue, there is hope that this situation can be resolved.
Recruitment of nurses is the second vital area in the future of nursing. This area will see a marked attempt to train more nurses as well as efforts by all facilities to offer enticing deals to attract nurses to positions within them. Those that do not or cannot offer sufficiently attractive enticements will find that they do not have the nursing staff necessary to run their facilities.