Why Is There A Doctor And Nursing Shortage In The US?

Why Is There A Doctor And Nursing Shortage In The US?

No matter how society progresses, there will always be a need for medical professionals like doctors and nurses. However, you might be surprised to learn that there’s actually a shortage of these skilled professionals looming on the horizon.

According to the Washington Post, the health care industry is going to be facing something called a “silver tsunami.” This term refers to baby boomers currently in the workforce that are approaching retirement. 

You can’t fault these hardworking individuals for wanting to retire, but when you combine that with the growing amount of nurses and doctors who are quitting due to frustration, it’s an alarming thing to consider.

Stethoscope on scrubs.

Why are these healthcare workers quitting left and right? Well, many feel like they aren’t making much of a difference for the people they tend to. Nurses especially feel the effects of dissatisfaction and burn out.

Shrinking Healthcare Work Force

Did you know that there are more than 3 million nurses in the US, making them the largest segment of healthcare workers? Why, it continues to be one of the fastest growing professions in the country, but that doesn’t match the estimated 1.2 million nurses who will be leaving the field between 2014 and 2025. 

According to a paper written by a team of Vanderbilt University researchers who specialize in nursing, the nursing shortage in 2025 could be “more than twice as large as any nurse shortage experienced since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in the mid-1960s.”

This means that by 2025, our nation’s healthcare sector will be short at least 90,000 doctors and over 500,000 nurses. In 2016, there were more than 70,000 nursing student applications that were turned down simply because there isn’t enough resources to provide them with the necessary training. This includes teachers, classrooms, and clinical spaces.

Results Of The Shortage

What happens if the shortage continues? There are both positive and negative effects to this shortage. If you’re thinking about changing careers, nursing can be a lucrative venture. There is good money to be made and it can be pretty rewarding on a personal level because you’re able to comfort those who are sick and in need of help.

With so many nurses approaching retirement age, there are going to be plenty of nursing positions available for you to fill once you become a registered nurse. Even if you’re already a nurse, you can advance your career and possibly find better paying jobs by changing where you work.

Unfortunately, as great as this all sounds, the truth of the matter is the nursing shortage brings its own set of negative consequences as well.

We previously stated that nurses are dissatisfied with their jobs because they are burnt out and frustrated. These feelings can be attributed to the fact that they have to work long hours and not always in the best conditions. These two factors can contribute to instances where the nurses get fatigued, get hurt on the job, and even fall into a depression.

It isn’t uncommon that nurses who aren’t satisfied with their jobs will make mistakes or medical errors that could can be disastrous for patient care, causing the people they are supposed to be treating to suffer.

Where Do We Go From Here?

So, with these alarming facts present, where do we go from here? How can we prepare for the influx of elderly, as well as the increasing number of cases of chronic diseases, who will need care?

Closed hospital sign.

Closing down hospitals because there aren’t enough people to staff them isn’t an answer, so we have to figure out a way to ensure healthcare professionals are satisfied with their jobs and aren’t likely to quit out of frustration.

Hospitals in particular, have a several options available to them to cover those open positions. One of which is least likely to be effective and that is to ask their current staff to work longer hours. That’s not going to be an effective solution because many hospitals already require their nurses to work 10 to 12 hour days.

They could provide a monetary bonus for those who do pick up extra shifts, but that will only go so far because eventually it may not be fiscally possible for smaller hospitals.

There are some locations that rely on temp agencies to cover their nursing deficit. These temp agencies pay their nurses and aides slightly higher salary and usually seen in long term care facilities. These aren’t always the answer either because the patients don’t always receive the same type of care as they would get from in-house nursing staff.

Even though temp staff may provide top-notch care for their patients, there’s something to be said about that personal level of care that long-term care residents receive from staff who works with them day in and day out.

The Institute of Medicine created a report entitled, “The Future of Nursing” that recommends nurses should attain higher levels of training and education. The authors suggest that nurses with baccalaureate degrees should be increased to 80% over the next few years.

For many nurses who live in poorer or rural areas, attaining that bachelor’s degree is an expense they cannot afford until later in their careers. Since many of these nurses tend to stay local, it would be advantageous to create educational opportunities that is both affordable and easily accessible.

The Future Of Healthcare

There’s no way in knowing for sure how the future of healthcare will fare in the United States. When you combine the fact that the government is still at odds over the Affordable Care Act and the growing shortages of nurses and doctors, it’s not looking good.

Nurses holding thumbs up.

We can only hope something changes to give nurses and doctors the boost they need to remember why they got into this line of work, because we need their expertise and their care.

Resources:

NationalAcademiesTheWashingtonPostNCBITheAtlanticHealthAffairsMDMagazineAmericanNursesAssociation

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