Nursing is part of the healthcare profession that deals with the care of individuals to ensure their optimal health and enjoyment of quality life (Faulkner, 1996, p.). In various parts of the world, various health care facilities are faced with the problem of inadequate number of nurses. Consequently, it is becoming increasingly difficult for such health care providers to administer health care services. It is the intention of a majority of the countries to ensure that their health care system is effective, efficient and affordable. However, such a goal cannot be realized when there is a chronic shortage of the workforce, and more so that of professional nurses. A shortage of nursing staff is of the problems that the health care system in the United States is faced with. Although the United States government has endeavored to ensure that it trained moiré nurses to assume professional roles in the various healthcare facilities, nonetheless, the issue of nurses’ shortage still persists.
Shortage of nurses in the United States
There are various problems associated with nursing in the United States and these need to be addressed in order to improve the system. For a long time now, several healthcare facilities have had to cope with shortage of nurses. According to Rosseter (2009, para. 4), there were about 1.89 million nurses instead of the required 2million in the year 2000. This represents a shortage of 110,000 nurses and is expected to increase to 340,000 by the year 2020 against a backdrop of a growing population. Such shortages not only affect the hospitals but also the nursing homes. According to a report that was released by Human Health Services department in the United States, it is expected that between 2000 and2020, the number of states with the problem of nurses’ shortage shall have increased to 44, up from 30. Similar sentiments have also been echoed by various healthcare publications in the united states, notably the American Association Journal, Journal of Medicine as well as Healthcare Organizations Accreditation Joint Commission. These publications all concur that the issue of nurses’ shortage in the United States is quite rampant.
Several factors affect the nursing profession in the united states according to Baer (2001, p.7). these include:
Raising population growth rates in many states
As the population of the country increases, the number of people in the country served by the available health amenities increases. This is because their expansion is rate is less relative to the rate of population growth. The available nurses in the amenities are therefore overstretched.
Reducing number of new nursing students
US nursing schools need to produce almost twice the number of graduates they produce each year to curb the shortage. However, lack of enough instructors derails this process. Nursing schools in the country are therefore compelled to cut down the number of students accepted. Several students interested in nursing are therefore turned away which does not help the situation. Reduced earnings in nursing relative to other career options available to students also make some students take other career paths for better remuneration.
The aging workforce of nurses
At the moment, registered nurses in the United States have an average age of 45 years. The implication is that quite some nurses will retire in the next few years compounding the problem further.
Low job satisfaction and poor working conditions: The low pay mentioned above combined with poor working conditions makes the nurses seek other green pastures. Infections from patients due to poor protective gear is one of the major problems the nurses face. They also overwork due to their small numbers and enormous demand.
Aging the population
As life expectancy increases and birth rate reduces, intense health care service is essentials for the growing number of the old. This helps in taking care of the elderly in their old age.
Addressing past nursing shortages: This involves, the management (in this case the government), doing everything within the allowed powers to make sure that new nurses are recruited in the job market as fast as possible.
Wage increases: Increasing the nurses’ remuneration package makes the job more attractive to many people who would then decide to go into the profession just like other more monetarily rewarding careers.
Expatriate nurses’ recruitment
Over the past years, various recruitment exercises have been done to help reduce the problems of nurses’ shortage in the United States health care system. These nurses have been recruited from such countries as Britain, Canada, India, and Philippines, amongst others. Such recruitment exercises are necessary for a bid to curb the acute shortage of nurses, albeit on a temporary basis. Experts however warn that these short-term solutions only have very little impact in solving the greater problem (Boyle & Andrews, 2008, p. 21).
In an effort at addressing the problem of nurse shortage in US, it is paramount to consider recruitment and employee retention drives.
A recruitment exercise of nurses would ensure that at any one given time there is a new workforce joining this noble profession. On the other hand, retention strategies should be incorporated upon successful induction of the nurses into the profession. Some of the strategies which can be incorporated include wage increment and increasing financial aid granted to nursing students.
The financial aids should target underrepresented and nontraditional nursing groups like minorities and men. Advertisements and campaigns on issues about rewards of the nursing profession should also be undertaken by the relevant authorities. An example of such is the $20 million “Campaign for Nursing’s Future” sponsored by Johnson & Johnson in the media in the early years of the 21st century targeting the Spanish population to join the profession. As a matter of fact, retention strategies should contribute towards ensuring that the current nurses are satisfied in their duties while at the same time attract others to rejoin the profession.
There is also the need to ensure that the working conditions of nurses are improved. In this case, it is important to ensure that the workplace environment motivates the nurses in their work. In addition, allowances should be made t ensure that the nurses are also given a chance to develop professionally. Early retirement among registered nurses is associated with hospital administrators’ unresponsiveness to them.
Some states such as California passed legislation to ensure relatively safer working conditions for nurses in these states. They do this to attract more of them. In 1999, California enforced a legislation that required the establishment of patient to nurse ratio in all the hospitals.
Several states have so far introduced similar legislation. Moreover, others have gone far and implemented laws that ban or limit mandatory overtime for nurses.
There is a big problem in the United States nursing sector caused by inadequate number of nurses in the health facilities. Measures put in place by the healthcare managers mainly the government to curtail this problem have so far not succeeded in creating noticeable change. The above strategies should be adopted to.
Baer, D. E. (2001). Enduring issues in American nursing. New York: Springer.
Boyle, J. S., & Andrews,M. M. (2008). Trancultural concepts in nursing. Philadephia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Faulkner, A. (1996). Nursing: the reflective approach to adult nursing. Hong Kong: Nelson Thornes.
Rosseter, R. (2009). American Association of College of Nursing. Web.