The entire healthcare system in America is continually changing. Whether it is due to Obamacare or other economic factors, new in home care positions are providing opportunities for many people in the healthcare industry. One occupation that is experiencing a huge lull in participation, though, continues to be the nursing profession. This is not a new phenomenon; there is a crisis of shortages of nurses around the country. Simply put, the US healthcare system is running out of nursing care.
The good news is that people are living longer than ever before, but that has consequences for a growing geriatric population in need of nursing care. The shortage, which has been brewing for more than a decade, is only going to get worse. With fewer people entering the nursing field than ever before, the shortage is forecast to hit disastrous and dangerous proportions.
Nurses are an underestimated factor in any healthcare setting. Often working directly with the patient and behind the scenes, in many healthcare settings they make the system run. As they deliver direct care, a shortage of nurses could have far-reaching implications for patient care from your local physician to your local hospital.
Worrying healthcare providers around the nation, the dwindling of people going into nursing, an aging nursing population, and the limited capacity that nursing schools have to accommodate the needs of the healthcare sector are all factors that are beginning to show in everyday clinical settings.
Currently, America has over three million nurses in the workforce, and it’s one of the fastest-growing occupations in the US. The problem is that those entering the nursing field simply can’t meet the supply demands, neither now nor for the future. According to statistics released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 1.2 million jobs will not be filled by the year 2025, outpacing any other healthcare occupation limitation.
The growing demand seems to stem from an aging Baby Boomer population. At present, there are more people over the age of 65 living in America than at any other time in history. That number is expected to increase by over seventy-five percent over the next two decades.
It is also estimated that along with the rise in the geriatric population, there will be a need for their individual specialized healthcare. Of those who are over 65, an estimated eighty percent of them will be living with a minimum of one chronic health condition that will require nursing care.
It makes sense that people who have chronic health conditions would use the healthcare system more than those who don’t. So as the population begins to age, the need for nursing will reach epidemic proportions, and there simply aren’t enough people entering the field to keep up with the demand.
It isn’t just the lack of new nurses entering the workforce; on the backend, those currently in the nursing field are aging, which will have most of them reaching retirement age soon without replacements for their positions. As many as one-third of those currently in the nursing force will be retiring in the next decade, which will leave a giant hole in the healthcare system.
The nursing field exploded in the 1970s, but things have continually changed since then. The options available to a primarily female-centered occupation have expanded greatly, leading many to choose a different path over the decades. Fewer women have gone into nursing, leading to fewer trained nurses year after year.
So what should be done?
The good news is that more men are entering the nursing field than ever before. Predicting the shortage in supply, many know that it will provide job security for the future. With supply and demand being the key, it will probably also lead to a pay increase for nurses going forward. Predominantly an underpaid and overworked career path, projections are that the benefits may be on the rise for those who choose to become a trained nurse.
Another realistic way to tackle the nursing shortage is to change the curriculum or the position of nurses altogether, and to require less time in school, doing away with core courses that aren’t related to clinical nursing.
There is no doubt that things need to change so that more individuals will be attracted to the nursing field, or the fallout over the next couple of decades will be substantial for the healthcare industry. Those designing the future of training nurses, and the compensation given to trained nurses, need to take a long hard look at how to make the industry more attractive for upcoming generations.