The nursing shortage is critical at this time

By Kathleen Eischeid, Edcor Business Development Coordinator

World-wide there is a critical nursing shortage, and the need for nurses is especially high during this this time of the Coronavirus pandemic. This is a time to recognize the contributions nurses make to our healthcare system. The World Health Organization has designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. This year recognizes the scientifically-based nursing education she started in 1860. But Florence Nightingale isn’t the only reason we should honor nurses this year. Nurses are on the front lines of the fight against COVID 19, working tirelessly and fearlessly to provide healthcare to their patients.

Right now, the whole world is benefiting from their scientifically-based nursing education and the care nurses are providing for patients during the Coronavirus pandemic. Nurses are major workers in improving public health outcomes, and they work directly with patients. Nurses and midwives make up more than 50 percent of the health workforce in many countries. And nurses also represent about 50 percent of the shortage of health workforce globally. The Bureau of Labor Statics predicts that the nursing shortage will increase 12 percent by 2028, in the United States alone. The BLS also predicts that from now until 2026, the US will need more than 200,000 nurses per year – more than a million additional nurses.

These predictions are based on the aging baby boomer population and the aging nursing population. The average age of RNs in 2016 was 45 compared to 38 in 1980. Sixty-one percent of RNs are 40 years old or older; 39 percent are 50 or older.  Now, in the midst of a healthcare crisis nurses are needed more than ever.

Higher education is one way to help solve the nursing shortage. The majority of nurses welcome professional development opportunities, such as those provided by Edcor’s many major healthcare system clients. These forward-thinking healthcare systems recognize that it is important for nurses to pursue higher education and respond by offering tuition assistance. This creates an advantage for the healthcare system itself, the nurses and the patients they care for.

A report by AMN Healthcare shows responses from nurses to the statement: “The quality of patient care I provide is positively influenced by professional development opportunities.” Each generation of the nursing workforce responded positively: 63 percent of millennial RNs, 61 percent of Gen Xer RNs and even 53 percent of Baby Boomer RNs who are closer to retirement.

The demand for nurses extends to nurse leadership positions. Baby boomer nurses have a higher percentage of nurses in leadership positions than Millennials or Gen Xers, in part because of their length of service. However younger nurses are also working to attain leadership positions. Two-thirds of Millennial and Gen Xer nurses are going to pursue master’s degrees and almost 20 percent will pursue a PhD in the next three years. About half of nurses said they are interested in Nurse Practitioner degrees.

One of the biggest problems in filling the nursing shortage is a lack of nurse educators. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) report on 2016 enrollment and graduation, US nursing schools had to turn away 64,067 qualified applicants because there was not enough teaching faculty. Now, in 2020, the effects of that shortage are felt by the total healthcare system and patients.

Many Edcor partner schools offer programs designed to increase the nursing workforce. RN – BSN, RN – MSN or doctorate programs help nurses fill vital roles. The nurse educators who teach in these positions “act as the bridge between the academics required to become a nurse and actual practice in the field.” Nurse educators also affect public health policy and medical research. Currently less than 5 percent of nurses have PhDs which is the minimum degree needed to conduct research. 

Meeting the need for nurses requires education. Edcor’s healthcare clients that support their employees with tuition assistance and Edcor’s partner schools are in a position to increase the numbers of people working in healthcare and the number of those qualified to become nurse educators. After nurses have worked to get patients through the COVID 19 crisis, there will still be the critical nurse shortage that has been predicted all along by the BLS and medical and nursing organizations. Higher education is the solution to the shortage.