What Causes Shortage of Nurses?
Low number of specialists
There is a difference between current and past nursing shortage that the unmatched demand is for nurses with skills, specialties, and experience but not sheer numbers. Modern nursing requires nurses with a high level of specialized skill in various areas including:
- Intensive care
- Critical care
- Operating room
- Recovery room
- Pediatrics and pediatric intensive care
- Labor and delivery
Nurses who can lead multi-disciplinary teams are in higher demand. They can serve as care managers in various facilities or serve as educators.
Decline in nursing school enrollment and educators
The number of admissions to nursing schools has been dropping consistently in the past years. Additionally, colleges and universities fail to admit thousands of qualified applicants because they do not have enough educators. The age of faculty members continues increasing, and there is no equal number of younger nurse educators to replace them. Some nurses who qualify to be educators but higher compensation elsewhere lures them from teaching. Countries must strive to graduate close to 100% more nurses so as to reduce the large gap between low supply and higher demand for nursing trainers.
Alternatives to nursing profession
For a long time, there have been a high number of women enrolling for nursing training. Nowadays, young women are exploring a wider range of career opportunities besides nursing. Today, fewer women choose nursing career than it was before the turn of the millennium.
Both men and women who qualify to train as nurses are weighing their interests giving a chance to career choices likely to offer higher compensation and enhance the quality of life. Unfortunate many view nursing as short of both.
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There is a wide variety of competitive and lucrative careers that did not exist in the past years but are now attracting the interest of potential nurses. They are now joining careers such as IT and the corporate world. It means that there will be a significant percentage of nurses who will reach retirement age and there will be no younger practitioners to replace them.
The level of technology in hospitals has been fast increasing allowing rapid assessment of patients, treatment, and discharge. Hospitals are slowly turning to large intensive care units full of respiratory assistance, cardiac monitoring and intense treatment leading to greater demand for nurses with specialized skills. Hospitals that have reached to this level may have many nurses but regard themselves as having a shortage if only a few of them have the knowledge to operate the equipment.
There is a rapid increase in population regarding new births and higher life expectancy for the aged. Both increase the demand for nursing services especially for the older generation that requires specialized attention.
The nursing shortage means that patients cannot receive adequate care while working nurses do more than normal duties for longer hours. There is a need to address the nursing shortage by improving the working conditions and pay to make it an attractive career for the young generation. When more of them enroll training, it will help to reduce the nurse: patient ratio.
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