The Nursing Crisis: Overwhelmed and Underpaid
When you enter the hospital to have a baby, who greets you? Although we associate our doctors with delivering our babies, often it's a nurse who walks us through labor and is with us from the first cramp until we wave goodbye with our newborn in our arms. Not every hospital stay is as happy as delivering a child, but the one constant throughout each and every visit we have to a hospital is the presence of nurses. Who then, can the general public rely on during a nursing shortage crisis? Although new graduates are entering the hospital workforce daily, they are struggling with the demand and overload of nursing shortage. The United States is in a clear nursing shortage crisis for many reasons.
Although there are many qualified students entering traditional campus and online nursing degree programs, there simply isn't enough instructors nor are there enough spaces to fulfill the current nursing shortage. This is due to the current economic crisis and lack of funding in schools, as well as fewer students willing to take on the financial burden of student loans and the credit card debt that they would incur to further their education. Even if there were enough spaces for interested nursing applicants, instructors are not as readily available as they have been in years past. Nursing instructors need to have a Bachelors degree at a minimum, with a Masters degree being preferable, in order to instruct. There are not enough nurses pursuing their higher degrees to overcome the demand.
New nursing grads are almost guaranteed to go through long periods of exhaustion and burn out. They work tremendous hours, and have the added stress of being the full support team for their patients. Whereas doctors simply examine and move on, nurses are required to be dedicated to the care of their patients. New nurses find that they have a very high patient to nurse ratio, and it would almost seem impossible to keep up with the demands of each patient over your shift if you have 5 people ailing to 1 nurse. Not only do they juggle many patients, they provide more over all care to their patients than physicians. The job is all encompassing, and put together with long hours and 2 week long stints without a day off, our new nurses are experiencing tremendous stress and pressure from the nursing shortage.
Extra burden is placed on nursing graduates, as their aging supervisors get ready for retirement. It's no secret in the US that the retirement of the large majority of baby boomers will put a huge strain on health care. Nurses getting ready to retire don’t have ready replacements in new graduates.
How do we lessen the burden on our new fleet of nurses? The only solution is to educate more nurses. In order to do so, we need to free up more spots in educational institutions. Our aging nurse population needs to focus on fulfilling educational supervisory roles as opposed to maintaining employment in the hospitals. Hospitals themselves need to put a heavy focus on restructuring within the hospital to diminish the impact of the shortage on individual nurses.
The nursing shortage is a vicious circle of stress, fatigue, and an overwhelming sense of helplessness at never quite being enough for their patients. Although many will say they are fulfilled by their careers, the sense that the job is never quite complete may never leave them. Perhaps with the new Government health care initiatives, the solution to the crisis is right around the corner.
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Illinois Faces Nursing Shortage of 21,000: The Illinois Center for Nursing, located within the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, was established assist in identifying and providing resources to recruit and train highly skilled nurses in Illinois.
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