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Although there is a daunting number of candidates working toward becoming nurses through Montana Tech, the reality is that there is still a lack of graduates going into the field to make up for the vast nursing shortage. Without nurses, hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes would not have the capacity to provide proper care to patients. There is a wide variety of reasons behind the nursing shortage and the underlying causes seem to have a waterfall effect. Each factor has side effects that contribute to more factors that further increase the lack of available nurses in healthcare around the globe. The U.S. is better off than some parts of the world as far as the nursing shortage goes, but the factors contributing to the shortage are different and equally as complex.
One contributing factor to the nursing shortage is that the Baby Boomer generation is reaching senior citizenship rapidly. The Baby Boomer generation makes up such a large portion of the population that their healthcare demands are outweighing the supply of nurses available to meet their needs (Grant, 2016). By 2029, the entire Baby Boomer generation will officially be at the age of retirement. This means that many nurses will also be reaching the age of retirement and further contributing to the deficit.
An unfortunate truth behind the nursing shortage is that there are not enough nurse educators to take on the number of students needed to fill the void. The problem goes down the line as nurse educators are reaching retirement age and there are not enough qualified applicants to replace them. So, the national nursing shortage continues as qualified nursing program applicants are turned away by the hundreds (Erickson, 2016). We experience this firsthand at Montana Tech. I look around at my peers and see so many brilliant young minds ready to work hard at becoming nurses. I know that the majority of us won’t be able to pursue our education at this particular university, whether we meet the application requirements or not, because the competition is so steep. The worst part about that is that many students don’t have the ability to choose another college because life does not always allow flexibility to up and leave the roots we have sown. Due to these restrictions, many students who would make excellent nurses and are surely qualified will not be able to pursue a career in nursing even though the world is in dire need of more nurses.
The issue doesn’t stop there. It would be easy to encourage more nurses in the field to further their education and pursue a career in teaching the next generation of nurses if other avenues were not more enticing. Nurse Practitioners are in just as much demand and they just so happen to make approximately $20,000 more than Nurse Educators do annually (Erickson, 2016). Naturally, more nurses are choosing to become Nurse Practioners (NPs) or specialize in certain fields instead of becoming Nurse Educators.
In order to fix the nursing shortage a lot needs to happen. For one, the field needs to be made more appealing. Too often nurses are treated with disrespect among their peers and given less than adequate compensation for the hard work they do. There is currently a massive strike occurring in Lake Tahoe California where, according to the California Nurses Association (CNA), nurses are demanding better healthcare benefits from their employer, Barton Memorial Hospital. The hospital has a shortage of nurses due to their failure to provide decent benefits to their employees which leads to dangerous working conditions for the nurses who do choose to stay. The nurses on strike want to go to work but they do not want to be stretched so thin that they cannot give their patients the best care possible and they also do not want to work just to pay off massive hospital bills for themselves and their families. This is just one more example of the trickle-down effect of the nursing shortage. Hospitals can use guilt to coerce nurses into working longer hours for less than they deserve because nurses are compassionate by nature and don’t want to see their patients suffer due to the shortage.
For individual hospitals to tackle the nursing shortage, they must provide appealing benefit packages and compensation so that nurses will want to go to work for them. If hospitals make nurses feel valued and appreciated, then they will rally to encourage more students to become nurses and come to work with them. I work in a hospital now and I am told daily that I will regret my decision to become a nurse. I don’t believe that for one second because I genuinely want to have a career in healthcare so that I can contribute to the betterment of society and encourage people to lead healthy lifestyles. That said, I know I will never be treated with the same respect as a doctor, surgeon, or NP and I have come to terms with that reality. However, I do believe that nurses deserve more respect and adequate compensation for all the work they do.
Additionally, there needs to be a push for more nurses to become educators instead of specializing in other areas. With more educators, universities would be able to graduate more qualified nurses to enter the field. There are some organizations working on making the path of education more appealing to nurses by providing grants and loan forgiveness programs for Nurse Educators (Grant, 2016). With more available educators in the nursing field, there would be more education opportunities in communities with small universities. This would especially help rural populations because it is difficult to find nurses who want to work in a small town where they did not grow up. So, if more local students had the opportunity to become nurses, they would be more likely to work at hospitals within their own communities.
Luckily, the nursing field is on the rise and I believe that with proper education about the nursing shortage more nurses will choose to become educators in order to help fix at least one of the underlying issues. The fact that nursing programs are turning away qualified applicants shows that there are plenty of eager candidates waiting to pursue a career in nursing. Those who are passionate will persevere and eventually find a way to make their dream career a reality. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there will be a 12% growth rate between 2018 and 2028 for registered nurses. The BLS also indicates that nurses with BSN degrees and higher will be in the most demand and have better luck finding employment over the next decade.
The projected growth is mostly good news for individuals pursuing a career in nursing. However, it also means that there may be a surge in new nurses all at once which may give rise to more competition within the field. Obtaining a BSN will certainly give Montana Tech graduates more opportunities and hopefully many students will decide to further their education and choose to teach future nurses. If nurses and concerned citizens continue to bring attention to the underlying causes of the nursing shortage, nursing careers will only get better and more desirable as the years go by.
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