Nurses work around the clock to provide the best care to their patients. They work long shifts at unusual hours and sacrifice family holidays due to professional commitments. It’s not surprising that the number of nursing jobs in the United States is expected to grow by a whopping 16% by 2024. This calls for immediate attention to the growing problem of the nursing shortage that is plaguing the healthcare industry.
The nursing shortage affects both patients and registered nurses alike. Nurses working in understaffed facilities have to face tremendous pressure. They are at a higher risk of making mistakes while on duty. Poor judgment and decision-making on the nurses’ part will have an adverse impact on their patients, even proving to be fatal in some cases.
What is Causing the Nursing Shortage?
The demand for quality healthcare services keeps growing as the generation of baby boomers continues to age. In fact, more than 80% of older adults suffer from at least one chronic disease. Unhealthy eating habits and a stressful lifestyle are contributing further to the rise of patients suffering from chronic ailments. And with the Affordable Care Act, an increased number of Americans now have access to healthcare.
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Another factor contributing to this problem is the educational obstacle faced by aspiring nurses. Despite many millennials showing interest in becoming nurses, their applications are often waitlisted. This is mainly due to the scarcity of good nursing faculty.
The salary offered for teaching positions is often much lower when compared to the wages for clinical positions. Thus, it is difficult to lure experienced nurses to take a pay cut and join a nursing school.
An increased influx of patients coupled with an educational bottleneck has led to the nursing shortage. It is expected to rise further if the government and healthcare facilities do not implement corrective measures quickly. Let’s discuss some of the steps that will help you deal with this challenge.
1) Prioritize Education
One way to curb the nursing shortage is to provide more educational opportunities to aspiring nurses. The first step is to increase the pay scale for nursing faculty. This will tempt senior nurses to work in teaching positions, assuring quality education for their students. In addition, opportunities to get their work published and recognized will also contribute to retaining top faculty members.
It is also important to provide hands-on training to potential nurses so that they are more prepared to do their jobs. Simulation mannequins and virtual reality programs can be used by nursing schools to give practical training to their students. This will equip them better to handle high-stake situations in their actual jobs.
The government’s role lies in providing more funds to nursing institutions. Grants and fellowships for underprivileged students will encourage them to apply for these courses. In addition, increasing Title VIII funding and retaining the Public Service Loan Forgiveness scheme will also act as incentives for aspiring nurses.
2) Improve Retention
Motivating the new generation to take up nursing as a profession isn’t enough. Healthcare facilities also need to work hard to retain their present nursing workforce. This includes providing incentives for unpopular tasks such as working on holidays, working bad shifts, or learning new skills. It leads to a win-win situation between the administration and nursing staff.
Investing in long-term training and professional development for nurses also makes them feel valued. In addition, it enables them to learn the necessary skills to take on managerial positions. It also turns experienced nurses into powerhouses of knowledge, allowing them to mentor new recruits.
Proper Onboarding Program
Nursing is an extremely challenging profession. It is particularly taxing for new recruits who need to adjust to a new work environment. Welcoming new nurses with an onboarding program boosts employee retention. A simple gathering where new nurses can interact with the current workforce builds a sense of community among them. The idea is to make them feel at home and encourage them to do their best.
It is also advisable to have a mentorship program for fresh graduates wherein they have to work under a senior nurse before they start practicing alone. This is a great way to give them practical training under the supervision of an expert before they are left to work on their own. It also reduces turnover rates among first-year nurses and allows community bonding to foster.
Improved Quality of Life
Medical facilities should be more accommodating and help nurses to balance their professional and personal lives. Competitive pay and flexible schedules can boost employee retention. Granting additional flexibility in terms of shift schedules and shift duration would also be helpful.
Employers need to be further considerate about nurses who have children of their own. Allowing time off during summer vacations to spend time with their kids is a great way to enhance job satisfaction. In addition, they can also be provided with special shift schedules that are coordinated with their children’s school hours.
3) Recruit Smartly
An effortless way to hire efficient nurses is to turn senior nursing staff into recruiters. Since nurses are most aware of the issues that bother them, they can add a new perspective to the recruitment process. Providing them with incentives for each referral will encourage them to bring more nurses on board.
Hiring nurses from foreign countries is a temporary solution to curb the nursing shortage. In fact, foreign nurses constitute 15% of the present nursing workforce in the US. However, owing to the increased complications in the immigration process, many trained nurses might choose to work in other countries. Thus, recruiting immigrant nurses is only a short-term fix for a potentially large crisis.
Tackling the nursing shortage calls for sustained innovative efforts by the government, educational institutions, and medical facilities. It is essential to create more educational opportunities for nursing aspirants. It is just as important to provide a better quality of life and a healthy work environment to the present nursing workforce.