Nursing Shortage Projected to Grow as Baby Boomers Retire

With the baby boomer generation entering retirement age, we are seeing a greater demand for healthcare workers, specifically nurses and doctors. But just when an influx of nurses is needed most, many nurses are leaving the field altogether. The reason, according to author Martie Moore in a Washington Post article, is that nurses don’t feel as though they are making enough of a difference for their patients.

Crunching Numbers

According to a 2011 study, more than 20 percent of nurses who provide direct patient care reported some degree of job dissatisfaction, compared to just 13 percent of nurses in non-institutional settings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that over 500,000 more nurses will be needed by the year 2022 (up 19.4 percent from 2012) to keep up with patient growth and replace those who leave the field.

Though physicians also face a looming deficit, it is projected that just 90,000 more will be needed by 2025, as opposed to the half a million nursing positions predicted.

Lack of Faculty Fuels the Shortage

In the Washington Post article, Moore explores the differences in this shortage of nurses and physicians, naming the lack of nursing faculty as a main issue. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that two-thirds of nursing schools cite faculty shortages as a top reason for turning away qualified applicants. This lack of an adequate amount of teachers puts greater stress on the already-problematic nursing shortage.

Making Necessary Changes

According to Moore, healthcare organizations must take into consideration nurses’ needs as individuals as well as professionals. More attention to education, personal wellness and recognition should be given if nurses are to stay in their positions rather than leave out of frustration.

Providing ongoing education and training enhances nurses’ skills, elevating their role and providing opportunities for leadership positions and further advancement in their career. Equally important is creating a work environment which helps improve nurse efficiency and allows nurses to deliver the best patient care. They need to be assured of the difference they are making.

In fact, Magnet hospitals provide this kind of setting for their nurses, fostering greater satisfaction with their roles. In a Magnet hospital, nurses are more empowered to make changes that can improve patient care, rather than simply following orders from the top. This provides a degree of autonomy and influence that nurses in non-Magnet hospitals may not experience.

Addressing Physical Issues

Professional changes aren’t the only ones that need to be made to better serve and retain nurses. Statistics show that 52 percent of nurses suffer from chronic back pain and 4.5 times more contact dermatitis than any other profession, the latter due to the constant use of harsh hand washing and sanitizing products.

Improved nurse retention and greater satisfaction among nursing staff can only occur when hospitals invest more time and effort in their nurses, and show the position is a truly valued one.

What is your healthcare institution doing to take better care of their nurses? What should they do to improve your work environment?

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