Nursing Programs In US Colleges Expanding — But Not Fast Enough

In response to the growing demand of nurse jobs in the USA, many colleges and universities are developing larger nursing programs — including the UAB School of Nursing, which has nearly tripled its admissions from 650 students to more than 1,800 over the past five years.  However even with these efforts, 75,587 qualified nursing applicants were turned away from colleges in 2011.

The problem?  There are simply not enough PhD-prepared nursing faculty available — the US nursing school faculty vacancy, as of 2010, is already at a full 6.9%.  The colleges simply cannot find qualified staffing to keep up with the expanding enrollment needs by those who are qualified and applying.

Aging, But Not Retiring

Currently, the median age of RN is 46.  A large number of nurses currently in their 50s are expected to retire within 10-15 years, particularly if the economy begins to improve in the states.

As it stands, many baby boomers may have to work until 70, or have reentered the workforce, according to a report by USA Today on the dire financial situation that many baby boomers face today.

The report also shows that approximately 41% of early Boomers and 48% of late Boomers are at risk due to the stock market and housing crises.  Also factors in the later retirement age are longer lifespans and the increased cost of healthcare.

However, even with these factors, it’s predicted by some that more than one million new nurses will be needed to replace those leaving the profession and the growing number that will need medical care in the future.

Effects Of The US Nursing Shortage

Nurses who work in understaffed conditions experience burnout, dissatisfaction, and an increased likelihood of leaving their job for other occupations.  Additionally, the overall performance of the hospitals is significantly impacted.

Patients in hospitals that are understaffed by nurses may also develop complications and/or report the perception of poor healthcare during their stay.

A study of 1,084 nurses and 232,342 patients published in JONA showed that the odds of patients dying in hospitals with an average workload of 8 patients per nurse is 1.26 times greater than in hospitals with a mean workload of 4 patients per nurse.

Dealing With The US Nursing Shortage

For the time being, the poor economy is an ironic boon on the shortage as well.  It’s led to nurses coming out of retirement, people being unable to afford healthcare due to unemployment or underemployment, and others to seeking minimal healthcare services due to the rising costs.

College grants are also being provided to offer partial loan “forgiveness” to nurses in graduate school who serve as a full-time nurse for a predefined period of time.

However, these solutions are only temporary ones — those coming out of retirement are still working near the end of their career, and the aging baby boomer population forebodes an increased need for more healthcare.  And as the economy improves and US legislation makes healthcare more widely available to Americans (likely in 2014), many who cannot currently afford healthcare will come forth.

There are many nurse potentials available to fill this onslaught of new available positions — and the need to do so is life-or-death for many hospitalized patients.  The challenge remains to the colleges to find existing professionals that are qualified to educate and train them — and to create incentives that encourage the expansive number of experienced and highly qualified nurses to become qualified to take on the nursing educator role.

Content provided by Jacques Bouchard of Onward Healthcare and Onward MD — a leading source for jobs in travel nursing, and for those seeking work as locum tenens physicians, respectively. If you’re interested in more information or would like to speak with one of our expert recruiters, contact us at (800) 278-0332 today!


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