Radford Words: Nursing Shortage: Critical Alert

Radford Words
Nursing Shortage: Critical Alert

While perusing the classifieds, advertisements for family nurse practitioners, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses abound. Many include thousands of dollars in signing bonuses along with a salary figure. Competition among healthcare facilities for qualified nurses is growing due to the shortage of nurses available in the marketplace. Resources need to be allocated to the education of new nurses and retention of nurses in the workforce or that integral portion of medical care is in jeopardy.
Recently the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia created a plan to ensure an adequate supply of nurses in Virginia. By 2020, the state could see a 32% shortfall of nurses to serve the needs of Virginians if no action is taken. The plan includes four specific strategies to meet the state's need for nurses. The first is to increase the current number of nursing faculty by 15% in two years and an additional 35% in 12 years. It suggests the expansion of educational institutions capacity to prepare students in basic nursing degree programs by 15% more students in two years and an addition 35% in 12 years. The plan also wants to increase the number of graduates from basic and advance nursing degree programs by 15% in five years and additional 35% within 15 years and improve the retention of Virginia nurses in the workforce.
Radford University (Va.) School of Nursing director Marcella Griggs says this is a step in the right direction. But if funds aren't there to offer nursing professors as much money as they would receive in the workforce, it will be hard to recruit teachers to instruct the Commonwealth's, and the nation's, future nurses. Like many nursing schools, RU is at full capacity because the number of faculty falls short of meeting the demand. RU is being proactive in fighting the nursing shortage and meeting the demand by hiring seven new nursing faculty for its nursing program. RU can only accept as many qualified nursing applicants as it has resources to serve. Last year, it could only accept about half of the qualified, high caliber students who applied for admission into its nursing program. Hopefully that will soon be a thing of the past. "We want to accept more of these students into our program. We want to educate more nurses for the workforce so there are enough to take care of all of us in the years to come," adds Griggs.
American Academy of Nursing Fellow and RU professor Virginia Burggraf has seen the need for nurses grow. "In my 40 year career, there have been about five or six shortages," Burggraf said. She says the shortage right now is due to economics, the war, changes in societal roles of women and in healthcare policy. Burggraf says women didn't have many professional choices in the 1960s but now that's all changed. "They can be dentists, pilots and anything they want to be," she said. "That wasn't even possible 30 years ago." Leaders in the nursing profession and nursing schools are striving to make careers in nursing more popular with both male and female students.
The population is aging. "The fastest growing population 40 years ago was children," says Burggraf, "but now those under the age of 18 have been surpassed by those over the age of 65. Medicare was nonexistent back then. We didn't seem concerned about the aging population because people were dying in their late 60s. Now people are living until they're 100."
Burggraf says RU's School of Nursing prepares graduates to be nurses who critically think of care options for their patients. "Some of the challenges we get them ready for now are ethical dilemmas. We are keeping babies alive at 20 weeks gestation, making decisions with parents and making moral value laden decisions. We are preparing them to be on ethics committees in institutional settings and acute care facilities where they make those decisions," adds Burggraf. "No matter what area of nursing they go into they will be working with older people who face decisions for life and end of life. They will see a great grandparent looking into the window on the OB unit at her 30-week gestation great grandchild wondering if he will live. How will the nurse handle the great grandmother whom is now an archive in that family? We are going to see that happening more and more," she adds.
The future is bright for the new nursing graduate. The jobs are there, the healthcare industry just needs qualified people to fill them. Schools of Nursing need resources to educate future nurses to do just that.

Article courtesy of Radford University (www.radford.edu).