A nursing shortage has recently been amplified by the increased need for nurses, combined with the number of nurses who are retiring (or set to retire) across the United States — especially with an aging senior population that needs intensive nursing care.
The U.S. Registered Nurse Workforce Report Card and Shortage Forecast found that the shortage is projected beyond 2030 and can be attributed to a number of factors, including the inability to attract new graduates to the field. Read more about the importance of making nursing a popular profession again.
Making Nursing a Popular Profession in the U.S. Again
According to Ben Cassleman of the Wall Street Journal, overall, nursing has been considered an attractive career choice. In 2012 there were more than 2.6 million registered nurses working in the U.S., however, changes within the profession have made it less popular over the past several years with fewer promising career paths.
Nursing has traditionally been a popular profession because it is:
- Accessible: Registered nurses typically “need only an associate’s degree, and licensed practical nurses don’t need a college degree at all,” Casselman reports.
- High paying: Nurses make an average of $67,930 per year and work an average of 36 hours a week.
- In demand: The Labor Department predicted employment for nurses to grow by more than a quarter between 2010 and 2020.
However, one problem with the factors drawing people to nursing is that opportunity for advancement — once an attractive quality for nurses, has recently changed.
“Unlike many jobs available to less-educated workers, nursing offers a clear upward path: LPNs can become RNs. RNs can become nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives or nurse practitioners, who can perform many tasks traditionally performed by doctors. Hospitals often provided on-the-job training or tuition reimbursement to help lower-level nurses advance,” Casselman says. “But now all of that is changing,” as “the nursing career ladder is becoming harder to climb.”
The Barriers for New Nurses in the U.S.
Instead of making nursing more attractive to new graduates, the industry is actually turning them off as a “combination of more and less skilled workers” are replacing LPN’s, Casselman reports.
Another barrier for new nurses is that with fewer experienced teaching faculty, some colleges are forced to turn away qualified applicants. In fact, “U.S. nursing schools turned away 79,659 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2012 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints,” the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports.
“Almost two-thirds of the nursing schools responding to [their] survey pointed to faculty shortages as a reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into their programs.”
According to Joyce E. Schickler, a registered nurse and writer for the New York Times, to ensure that nursing is an accessible career, the industry needs to address the following problems which keep qualified candidates away from the nursing profession.
These barriers include:
- Inflexible scheduling options
- Insufficient resources
- Lack of autonomy and accountability
- Poor certification and education incentives
- Unrealistic workloads
Schickler also suggests that increasing salaries across the board and offering professional support for nurses will help to attract new nurses to the profession and perhaps make a difference in combating the nursing shortage.
Another option to help make nursing a popular profession again is to focus on attracting more men and visible minorities to the nursing field. According to Minority Nursing, 75.4% of nurses in the U.S. are white and only 9.1% of RNs and 7.6% of LPNs are male.
There are many ways that nursing can be a rewarding career — but in order to fill America’s nursing shortage and meet the needs of an aging population, the barriers which are preventing nursing candidates from entering and advancing within the industry must be removed.
Are you a nurse for the aging senior population? Do you consider nursing to still be an attractive career choice? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.