Slow economy has done little to ease nursing shortage
In response to speculation that the recent economic downturn and sluggish labor market have brought the number of working nurses more in line with needs of the health care system, the National League of Nurses (NLN) has published a statement reaffirming the need to expand, not contract, the capacity to educate and license new nurses. The "Joint Statement on Recent Registered Nurse Supply and Demand Projections" by the NLN in association with other major nursing groups reaffirms the consortium's belief that any reduction in the number of nurses pursuing licenses and degrees, or drop in the number and variety of educational outlets for nurses, will leave the health care system unprepared to meet the demand for essential nursing services.
The NLN cites two main forces that will continue to exacerbate the nursing shortage regardless of economic growth. First, since the overall population of working nurses tends to be statistically older than the general working population, the impending retirement of the baby-boom generation will hit the nursing profession harder than other workforces. With such a rapid loss of manpower, experience and skill, it is essential that as many young men and women as possible be encouraged to enter the nursing profession and enter it with a high level of education. Baby-boom retirement will affect nursing in other ways as well, as a larger overall portion of the population begins to enter retirement-age and demand more health care services either for illness or for emerging preventative care. As frontline health care providers, nurses will bear the brunt of this increase in service demand.
Health care reform will also present new challenges and new opportunities for the nursing profession. The NLN believes changes to the American health care system outlined in the Affordable Care Act of 2010 will elevate nurses to new roles with greater responsibility for leadership and patient care. As such, the NLN in association with the Tri-Council for Nursing issued a policy statement encouraging all nurses to explore higher-level degrees, including a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, master's level nursing degrees and doctoral programs. The Tri-Council believes a tipping point has been reached in the nursing profession and that action is needed now to build a stronger nursing workforce to avoid putting the nation's health care system at further risk.
The NLN and Tri-Council conclude their policy statement with an urgent call to action for everyone involved in the health care system. The group calls for fundamental changes in nursing practice and education and urges nurses to embrace academic progression and lifelong learning. Policymakers at state and federal levels are encouraged to fund nursing education programs and collaborate with educators to help as many nurses as possible advance their education. These actions are necessary, according to the group, to ensure the very best in patient care and safety.
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Sources: National League of Nurses policy statement: "Joint Statement on Recent Registered Nurse Supply and Demand." http://www.aacn.nche.edu/news/articles/2010/tricouncil
Tri-Council for Nursing policy statement: "Educational Advancement of Registered Nurses." http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/188978.php