Currently in America, the US Department of Labor estimates that there are over 3.1 million Registered Nurses, and 85% of these RN’s are working in the nursing profession still (USDL, n.d). Despite this large pool of nurses, the shortage present in the US continues to affect both the profession and the public in a variety of ways. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there is a 22.2% anticipated growth need over the next 9 years if we as nurses are to grow and change with both our profession as a whole, and with the public (AACN, 2017).
I had not seriously considered the nursing shortage to be a reality much in the past and was interested to learn that the issue of concern is not that there is not a constant influx of young blood into the pool of US nurses as new grads pour out of schools, but rather, that there was a large influx of women into the field of nursing approximately three to five decades ago and as a result, the majority of Registered Nurses in the US will soon be over age 50 and begin to be thinking about retirement (May, Bazzoli and Gerland, 2006). The trouble, then, for the profession of nursing is perhaps partly due, in some backward way, to the ever increasing opportunities young women find themselves presented with today as compared with the choices young women in the 60’s and 70’s experienced. As nursing is a largely female dominated field with approximately 92% of its workforce comprised of women according to the Department of Labor (n.d.), it makes sense that the profession is experiencing a shortage now that women find themselves considering a myriad of options professionally that go far beyond the popular 1960’s and 70’s women’s careers of nurse, teacher, secretary, book-keeper (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011).
This being the case, the public continues to age, even as the median pool of RN’s does, and as baby boomers continue to age and develop increasing health challenges, so will the demand for nurses increase. According to May, Bazzoli and Gerland, this will become a significant issue for the public if not addressed, and by 2025, we can expect to be approximately 260,000 Registered Nurses short of the anticipated public need. This will, unfortunately, cause a decline in standards of care, as well as causing decreased job satisfaction, negatively affecting public image of this great profession, and causing a decrease in the labor-to-benefits ratio.
So, what is the solution? A situation of this magnitude has no simple solutions, but there are a number of influential nursing organizations, including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, that are stepping up to the plate and seeking to use their influence to help impact and counteract this shortage. One solution that the AACN reports is that the University of Pennsylvania is calling for an increasing number of their students to consider a profession in nursing and is encouraging these students to pursue and achieve their Bachelor’s and Post Graduate education so that they will be ready to help step into roles of future leadership such as primary care and Advanced Practice nursing (AACN, 2017) as these are areas that they most anticipate the shortage will impact. Each of us must play a role in addressing this shortage; as we as a class work to complete our Baccalaureate education and perhaps continue on towards Master’s degrees, we too are joining in the fight to help fill needed roles and play a valuable part in caring for our nation’s sick and infirmed.