Thinking back to a recent hospital stay, I had filled out a suggestion card that the hospital gives out to all patients being discharged. I usually don’t pay attention to the cards, but this time I did. I commented that the nurses who attended to me throughout my hospital stay were very professional and pleasant but lacked energy. I had actually asked one of my nurses if she was ok and she was very honest in saying that all of the staff was pulling extra shifts simply because there were not enough nurses to go around. Many were handling twice the caseloads that they should have.
I also have a friend who is a nurse tell me that in certain parts of the country, this shortage of nurses is commonplace. I find that scary! Nurses are the cornerstone of healthcare. Without them, the whole foundation of patient treatment is shaky. There is some legislation being introduced called the NEED Act which stands for Nurse Education, Expansion and Development. It seems that the biggest problem is not the lack of people who want to become nurses; it is the lack of nursing educators.
Come to find out, nursing schools have a severe shortage of teachers. There are a variety of factors causing this shortage. Retirement is one of the reasons. Within the next few years, nursing educators will be leaving in droves because of retirement and there are not enough people stepping up to the plate to fill those teaching positions. The main reason is lack of pay. Why would a nurse want to teach when they could get almost twice as much salary with a private practice or hospital? That is the crux of the matter.
While the NEED Act will address such issues as grant money for nursing schools based on enrollment and monies to help recruit nurse educatorsand improve teaching facilities, I just don’t feel that is quite enough. There has to be other things that can be done to entice nurses into educator positions. Money will always be the deciding factor these days given the high cost of living and raising a family. Will the NEED Act adequately address salary increases for nursing educators? I just don’t see that it will.
Alternate plans need to be in place to serve in conjunction with the NEED Act. The “Troops to nurse Teachers” program passed by the Senate is a step in the right direction. Better benefits, tuition assistance for families and good retirement packages are good incentives for enticing nursing educators. What about developing a program to create a job sharing plan for the recently retired nursing teachers? I just don’t feel that all avenues have been explored when it comes to this nursing shortage we are facing.