There has been a significant decline in the registered nurses work force in recent years. The number of students being enrolled in the nursing schools in the last few years has experienced a steep slump. Increase in professional opportunities for women in other fields is considered to be the primary reason. Moreover, the worsening working conditions in the profession of nursing is also a contributing factor. Some other factors causing the shortage include, lower pay scales, downsizing in the healthcare sector, education cutbacks, lack of long term planning and aging nurses.
In the early to mid 1990s thousands of nurses were downsized, opportunities for educating nurses were reduced and a number of nursing positions were casualized in an attempt to reduce costs. (RNABC) The cutbacks in education funding for nurses caused the entrance of new students in nursing institutes to decrease. The low entrance level of younger nurses has caused the average age of a US nurse to rise noticeably. According to an estimate by the Bureau of Labor Statistics 331,000 RNs (registered nurses) will retire by the year 2008. On the other hand, a significant increase in the demand for nursing services is estimated followed by the retirement of the baby boom generation. This will cause a nationwide shortage of registered nurses across the United States. (Solomon, 2002)
This shortage is estimated to reach 500,000 positions by the year 2020. A recent study by the Chicago tribune revealed that thousands of patients die every year because of the lack of sufficient staff. It further revealed that more than 1700 patients have died since 1995, just because of nurse's mistakes. (CNN- Health)
The impact of shortage
The shortage of registered nurses is causing the quality of nursing services, provided by the hospitals, to drop down. A number of hospitals are severely affected by the growing shortage of registered nurses as they already have laid off their nursing staff in order to minimize their operational costs. The reason that nurses were the targets of aggressive cuts, in budget spending of hospitals, is that they represent 20 percent of the average hospital budget. (O'Neil, 2002) these RNs were substituted with lower paid assistants.
This decline in professional health care work force has severely affected the quality of patient care. The working conditions for nurses are no more favorable, the general perception about nursing as a profession has deteriorated. One of the reasons for which most of the hospitals are facing staffing problems is that most of the professional nurses are hesitant to accept a job in positions where they will not...