The Americans for Nursing Shortage Relief (ANSR) Alliance represents a diverse cross-section of health care and other related organizations, health care providers, and supporters of nursing issues that have united to address the national nursing shortage and the delivery of high quality nursing care to the nation (Americans For Nursing Shortage Relief, 2012, p. 1). The ANSR is just one of the many groups that are attempting to resolve the issues we currently have in the nursing profession. An issue that I believe is of great importance to discuss is the current nursing shortage. It affects all aspects of nursing, including the educational setting. The shortage is projected to increase in the future, due to more nurses retiring. It is an issue that appears to be getting worse, rather than improving.
In the 2009-2010 school year, the National League for Nursing found that 42% of qualified applicants were rejected from prelicensure RN programs (Americans For Nursing Shortage Relief, 2012). Also, 60% of these programs were considered highly selective and accepted less than 50% of applicants (Americans For Nursing Shortage Relief, 2012). Faculty shortage in education is part of the problem because fewer nurses can join the profession (Finkelman & Kenner, 2016). Nursing programs also struggle for laboratory space and clinical training sites at healthcare facilities (Finkelman & Kenner, 2016).
Another contributing factor to the shortage is the retirement of existing nurses. Yearly averages of retiring baby boomers are around 60,000 and rising; projections for 2016-2026 estimate about 204,000 annual openings for RNs (RN survey, 2018). With this number of vacancies on the rise, strain is placed on the ability to give timely, quality care to patients (RN survey, 2018). In a survey of 3,347 RNs, 37% reported staff shortages in 2015 and this number increased to 48% in 2017 (RN survey, 2018).
The nursing shortage, in some ways, is like a double-edged sword. In the educational setting, the nursing shortage affects staff which then affects the number of students accepted into programs; either way, one affects the other. In the workforce, it seems that the shortage is creating another issue that is also reducing the number of nurses. Burnout is a syndrome manifested by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishments (Finkelman & Kenner, 2016). It results in financial cost due to staff turnover and sickness and reduces the quality of care (Goodare, 2017). Increased stress levels can result in failure to identify patient distress with possible catastrophic outcomes (Goodare, 2017).
Understaffing affects nursing staff, patients and loved ones, and the workplace (Martin, 2015). With less staff available for the workplace, nurse-to-patient ratios increase. A high nurse-to-patient ratio is responsible for discontent with a job and burnout; lower ratios are proven to reduce mortality rates by over 50% (Martin, 2015). Unrealistic workload can cause job discontent, absence, poor sleep, and fatigue (Martin, 2015). It impacts the workplace because staffing directly affects patient safety and quality of care provided (Martin, 2015). In establishments with higher RN staffing, there are lower adverse outcomes which improve quality of care and patient satisfaction (Martin, 2015).
In conclusion, the nursing shortage is a topic that all nursing professionals should be aware of. It affects us all regardless of which establishment, or state, we practice in. It is a major concern for our patients as well. When a patient comes to a medical establishment, they expect the best possible care. Without proper staffing, quality of care declines and so does patient satisfaction. This should not be taken lightly; hopefully, with the help of the ANSR and other organizations, the shortage will improve, and patients will receive the quality of care they expect.
Americans For Nursing Shortage Relief. (2012). Assuring quality health care for the United States: Building and sustaining an infrastructure of qualified nurses for the nation. Retrieved from https://www.amsn.org/sites/default/files/documents/practice-resources/legislative/2012-ANSR-Consensus.pdf
Finkelman, A. & Kenner, C. (2016). Professional nursing concepts: Competencies for quality leadership (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett.
Goodare, P. (2017). Literature review: Why do we continue to lose our nurses?. Australian Journal Of Advanced Nursing, 34(4), 50-56.
Martin, C. J. (2015). The effects of nurse staffing on quality of care. MEDSURG Nursing, 24(2), 4-6.
RN survey shows baby boomer retirement wave. (2018). AACN Bold Voices, 10(2), 11.
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