The nursing industry is expanding rapidly. This expansion, caused by emerging technologies, an ageing patient population, among other things, impose more responsibilities on nurses, which now go beyond taking care of patients.
Unfortunately, the number of nurses is depleting. In this article, we will address this issue, see its main causes, and how we could overcome it.
Global Nursing Population
There are around 19.3 million nurses in the world, including midwives. This number makes up 50% of the entire global health workforce. Some countries like Switzerland, South Korea, Australia, Norway, and Slovenia have more nurses per 1,000 inhabitants than other developed countries (Luxembourg, Turkey, Mexico, Czech Republic, and Greece, for example).
A survey including five European countries shows that the United Kingdom, Belgium, and the Netherlands will face an alarming shortage of nurses with a growing number of vacancies. The US has 3.22 million of these professionals, with the average age for licensed practice nurse being 43.6 years, and 44.6 years for registered nurses.
Because of this, the estimated job growth in the country is projected at 14.8% because the number of new nurses will not keep up with the rate of the retiring ones.
The Rising Problem
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the demand for nurses has been growing since 2002. This is further confirmed by the fact that 52% of nurses say that the shortage is worse today than five years ago. Why is this a problem, and why is it worsening?
There are several reasons for this shortage, but the main reason can be seen occurring in the US with the ageing nursing population. The number of new nurses just isn’t enough to keep up with demands as the majority of the workforce is made up of older nurses who are close to retirement.
The National Council of State Boards states that half of the registered nurses are above 50 years old, and almost half of them are expected to retire within the next four years.
The Root of the Problem
The problem with nursing isn’t due to the lack of interest in the field, but because there is just not enough capacity. It was reported in 2014 that 70,000 job applicants were turned down due to this problem. In fact, a survey found faculty shortages affecting two-thirds of nursing schools in the US.
This problem seems to be caused by a domino effect of nurse educators also being in the range of 50 years old or older and close to retirement. The issue causes a catch-22 situation where nursing programs do not have the capacity to supply enough nurse educators to meet the demand.
The Solution to the Problem
There are a few ways that we can go about this nursing shortage. One is to raise awareness regarding this problem, as most people outside of the field are unaware of the situation. Another way is to improve nurses’ working conditions by giving them fewer work hours, reasonable salaries, and the stress-free work environment.
By creating more rewarding and promising job opportunities, more people will gain interest in the field, and we could solve the nursing crisis in no time.