The next nursing shortage it’s far away in the future but will be a mess when it happens
f you Google “nursing shortage,” you’ll get a lots of pages telling you there is a major crisis right now. But most likely these articles are sponsored by nursing schools. The reality is that there is no nursing shortage. Even though some specialty areas such as L & D and ER are having a harder time filling positions, all other areas have no problem finding plenty of nurses. This can be evidenced by the lack of training that now is the new norm in most hospitals and all health care businesses. This is the beginning of a future shortage waiting to happen.
The real crisis will come from the lack of trained new nurses in the future. If you look at Nursing as a whole, there is always a shortage but you can’t always see it because the holes are filled with variety of unexpected events. There are always gluts followed by shortages. But this time there is a giant bubble that may be followed by a giant and complicated shortage. But this might only happen many years from now.
The new problem is that young nurses are less likely to be trained by experienced nurses. All the accumulated knowledge and expertise from nurses with years of experience will be lost. For management, spending money training new nurses just doesn’t make any business sense. Planning for the future is just too expensive. We now live in a shareholder’s profits economy and that is the top priority. Nursing, like all other medical occupations, require a huge amount of time for skilled learning. When older, more experienced nurses finally retire, a colossal need for new nurses will occur yet who will be there to teach them?
Nurses older then 50 represent 44.7 % of all working nurses while nurses aged 60+ represent 15.5% of the workforce according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. So we can safely say that the number of nurses retiring relatively soon will be very significant. In essence, new hospital management is killing mentorship and destroying nursing education that is vital for new nurses. There are contradicting reports being released.
The Staffing Industry Annalists have just release a groundbreaking finding just released in 2015. The Healthcare Staffing Growth Assessment Report. Contrary to the overwhelming rhetoric from policy makers and nursing schools the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) now predicts a nurse’s surplus of 340,000 in the U.S. by 2015.
When experienced nurses leave, the many years of accumulated clinical knowledge and expertise will leave with them. There is absolutely no substitute for that, no text book or school program that can even match the power of floor experience. Training of new nurses already suffers from an acute deficit since litigation became the law of the land. Students can’t touch patients because hospitals fear (rightfully so) law suits. Training or learning hospitals are a thing of the past; there are simply very few of them. Nurses have the most intense theoretical and academic instruction, but hands on learning is basically anemic. The only places able to train nurses in any organized and comprehensive fashion are hospitals but they are denying this responsibility as theirs.
Acute care happens in hospitals. This is where nurses can learn acute care skills. You can’t learn it in a classroom or online. An unspoken rule has been that hospitals would take new grads through this valuable transition. But because of the perceived high costs, management sees this as a bad investment. Hospitals are making record profits and there is no shortage of money, but the agenda does not include social responsibility. The agenda is profit. To me this is a clear example of why for-profit corporations should not be in charge of health care.
Since there are plenty of nurses available, they simply fazed out most new grad programs. New nurses are trained by other nurses as they in shadowing arrangements. This is however a heap hazardous practice at best because as hospitals are under staffed there are fewer and fewer nurses able to provide this services. When the bubble bursts, there will be a problem and patients can’t wait until the problem can be solved. Patients need care now. The bubble will burst just as quickly as it formed.
The funny thing is that before 2008, there was an acute shortage of nurses. It all changed within 2 months. How did we go from a severe shortage to having no shortage at all. It’s simple: nursing has shifting dynamics. There is about 10 – 20% of nurses who work occasionally, when times are tough. Technically we can call these nurses a fluctuating population. They only work when they need to. When the recession came in 2008, every single one of these nurses showed up to work. But they can also leave without saying a word.
The other “nursing glut inducer” is the never-retiring older RN’s. They just stick around one more year which turns into another year and so on. Every sign points to a bulge in this demographic. The core nursing staff right now is mostly comprised of older nurses, who are staying just a little longer. But it’s a real possibility that they could start retiring in droves.
The other factor which might possibly aggravate the acute return of a shortage is a surge in patient load. When the economy is going well, patient load surges. More money and more insurance means more disposable income to take care of all elective treatment they have been postponing. This has all the signs of a perfect storm.
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