Nursing Shortage - Page 3
Solutions to the Nursing Shortage
For sustained change and assurance of evading the forthcoming shortage, solutions must be developed in several areas: education, health care systems, policy and regulations, and image. This shortage is not exclusively a nursing issue, but will require a collaborative effort among nursing leaders, practitioners, health care executives, government, and the media.
Creating Cultures of Retention
The American Nurses Association Magnet hospital program has had a proven success in raising the standards of nursing practice and improving patient outcomes. Currently there are 85 organizations that are designated Magnet hospitals. Magnet facilities are characterized by strong administrative support, adequate nurse staffing, strong communication, nurse autonomy, better control, and a vital focus on the patient and their family.
A growing body of research indicates that this program is making a positive difference for nurses, patients, and the hospitals as a whole. Research is proving that through this program, nurses are having increased satisfaction as well as increased perceptions of productivity and the quality of care given. Studies also indicate that these facilities have lower incidence of needle stick injuries, lower burn out rates, and double the retention of non-Magnet facilities. By adopting the characteristics of Magnet hospitals, facilities will be able to create a culture of retention that empowers and is respectful of nursing staff.
Strengthening the Infrastructure
In 2002 the Nursing Reinvestment Act was signed by President Bush to address the problem of our nation's nursing shortage. This initiative was intended to promote people to enter and remain in nursing careers, thus reducing the growing shortage. The law establishes scholarships, loan repayments, public service announcements, retention grants, career ladders, and grants for nursing faculty.
Many statewide initiatives are underway to address this issue as well. In Pennsylvania, six new nursing education initiatives have been announced to address faculty shortage by encouraging current nurses to return to school, earn graduate degrees, and teach the next generation of nurses. Illinois is unveiling a plan to provide faculty scholarships and grants to nursing schools in order to expand student enrollment. California, whose nursing programs currently have wait lists over three years, is trying to expand nursing education through a $90 million initiative.
What the public generally thinks about nursing and how the media portrays nursing shapes the current image of the profession. The public has heard about the stress nurses are experiencing, the shortage of staff, and stories of nursing errors that have injured or killed patients. Needless to say, the images provided by stories such as these do not bolster the desire to enter the profession. Nursing appears as an unstable, unpredictable, and high-risk career option.
Two national media campaigns have been launched to refine the image of nursing. Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow is a coalition of 44 health care organizations working together to raise interest in nursing careers among middle and high school students.
It has often been said that in order to ensure a continuous flow of nursing students, children must be reached at an earlier age. Educators say that students often have their minds made up by fifth grade of desirable and undesirable careers, thus an early positive image of nursing is imperative.
Another market that needs to be pursued is males. Currently, male nurses account for only 5.7% of all nurses. If men were to enter nursing at the same rate as women, shortages would not be a concern. In order to influence men to enter the nursing profession, society and the media must eliminate barriers and stigmas facing men who may choose this career.