Is The Nursing Shortage Affecting Healthcare?

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has made notice of a shortage of Registered Nurses in today's hospitals, with this gap expected to grow in coming years as baby boomers grow older and health care is needed more than ever. While nursing schools have increased their entry-level students by 2.2% in the last year, in order to make up for the nursing shortage, nursing schools would need to enroll 90% more students than they are currently.

Though students are enrolling in school at a rate higher than ever, nursing colleges are fighting to meet the demand. There was an over 20% increase in hiring in the health care sector, making nursing the field with the most growth in the last year. Yet in the next fifteen years, Dr. Peter Buerhaus of Health Affairs has predicted that the shortage will be twice any shortage experienced since the '60s.

While jobs in almost every industry are decreasing, American health care continues to grow. Although the American Association of Colleges of Nursing is struggling to tackle the nursing shortage with litigation and strategies, Americans are afraid that the lack of nurses is affecting health care, with 40% believing that health care quality has diminished in quality. Dissatisfaction with the stress of an understaffed nursing team and the lack of time spent with each patient had caused serious doubts about the value of nursing and health care.

Unfortunately, on a low level, insufficient staffing is causing a decrease in the quality of care. Because of under-staffing, nurses are unable to spend adequate time with each patient, which reduces attention to detail. This causes stress, which decreases levels of job satisfaction.

Unhappiness is driving nurses out of a profession that is already experiencing a huge discrepancy in hiring. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association's October 2002 issue has stated that the nursing shortage is causing "avoidable patient deaths." With the reduction in nursing hires, there is lowered access to effective health care.

Hospitals experience frequent nurse turnover, which lowers the consistency of care. The nursing shortage has allegedly caused problems in complication detection and communication between nurses.

Further enrollment in entry level nursing degrees can help defray the nursing shortage, yet it's difficult to find a school that isn't already completely overloaded with applicants. With the proliferation of online schooling, it is becoming easier to enroll in nursing school. Online degrees are becoming more and more accepted by health care hiring managers, because of the great need for nursing.

Legislation is being proposed to combat the nursing shortage. The Nurse Education Expansion and Development Act would provide capitulation grants to nursing schools in order to boost the number of students and faculty.

Capitulation grants have worked well in the past to raise enrollment in nursing schools.

Many states are taking initiatives to change the shortage of registered nurses in their own states. By partnering with sponsors in the private sector, this makes for some incredible options for students wishing to enter the health care field. Pennsylvania, for example, has raised more than a million dollars in funding to diminish the nursing shortage in the state. The increase in funding will help prevent the decrease in health care, as more nurses will enter the market.