A nursing shortage is a major concern in many healthcare organizations across the globe. Despite being an acknowledged fact, this issue continues to plague the healthcare system of the United States. In community hospitals, this issue is especially critical, which is clearly highlighted by the current virus outbreak. The demand for medical personnel with higher education continues to rise in the United States, while the existing staffing shortages grow as well (Metcalf et al., 2018). Haryanto (2019) states that this issue has the greatest impact on “rural hospitals and primary care settings” (p. 1). The most vulnerable hospitals are those located in rural areas of the U.S., as they struggle to compete with the salaries of urban hospitals, which often attract more experienced RNs (Blegen et al., 2017). The educational facilities that train new nursing personnel also experience issues with insufficient faculties and financial constraints, which further impairs the introduction of new RNs to the job market (Haryanto, 2019). The impact of understaffing has been known for decades, yet there is no clear solution to the nursing shortage as of now.
There are several critical adverse effects that stem from this issue. They include a significant increase in risks for patients, higher RN turnover rates, and emotional and physical exhaustion of personnel (Bakhamis et al., 2019). Nurses are often the ones who are more likely to be exposed to legal risks during their tasks in primary care hospitals (Reyes, 2019). Moreover, due to the difficult environment and insufficient payments, the quality of the workforce decreases, and inexperienced nurses have to fill in the gaps (Reyes, 2019). The ultimate victims of this issue are the patients, to whom poor quality of services can mean exposure to medical errors, the lack of proper attention to their issues, severe health damage, and even death.
The elimination of the nursing shortage in hospitals is essential due to the sheer amount of risks it introduces to the healthcare system and society as a whole. Understaffing is especially critical nowadays due to COVID-19, which has shown the severity of this issue and the effect it has on excessively high mortality rates across the globe (Spurlock, 2020). Lasater et al. (2020) state that this pandemic has revealed: “the importance of having adequately resourced health systems to deliver high-quality patient care, as well as the toll under-resourced care settings take on clinician well-being” (p. 2). The nursing shortage is an issue that continues to accumulate if left unchecked, as the more nurses leave their occupation, the more workload each employee has to deal with, which increases the stress levels.
Possible solutions to this issue include upgrading the education process for medical personnel, the increase in salaries for registered nurses, and the reduction of burnout rates of nurses in hospitals. In order to increase the retention of RNs, hospitals need to uphold the patient-to-nurse ratios to prevent overburdening personnel (Lasater et al., 2020). The improvements in the education of new RNs can be achieved by applying new technologies in the studying process, such as distance learning (Spurlock, 2020). Working conditions also need to be taken into account, as long hours, the lack of appreciation, and toxic relationships between employees are not uncommon in this setting (Bakhamis et al., 2019). Several initiatives by American healthcare organizations aim to alleviate this crisis, however, this issue still persists and weighs heavily on the healthcare system, signifying the need for an innovative approach to resolving it.
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Blegen, M. A., Spector, N., Lynn, M. R., Barnsteiner, J., & Ulrich, B. T. (2017). Newly licensed RN retention. JONA: The Journal of Nursing Administration, 47(10), 508-514. Web.
Haryanto, M. (2019). The nursing shortage: Myth or fact? Orthopaedic Nursing, 38(1), 1-2. Web.
Lasater, K. B., Aiken, L. H., Sloane, D. M., French, R., Martin, B., Reneau, K., Alexander, M., & McHugh, M. D. (2020). Chronic hospital nurse understaffing meets COVID-19: An observational study. BMJ Quality & Safety. Web.
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Metcalf, A. Y., Wang, Y., & Habermann, M. (2018). Hospital unit understaffing and missed treatments: Primary evidence. Management Decision, 56(10), 2273-2286. Web.
Reyes, C. (2018). In your defense: Ending the vicious nursing shortage cycle. Emergency Medicine News, 41(6). Web.
Spurlock, D. (2020). The nursing shortage and the future of nursing education are in our hands. Journal of Nursing Education, 59(6), 303-304. Web.