Two Views of the Nursing Shortage
David Williams writes a healthcare blog
and has tackled the "nursing shortage" on more than one occasion. In a recent post
he once again questioned the reality of a pending shortage. He questions the logic of the numbers being used to make predictions. Part of his argument is that those predicting a long-term shortage are not taking into account for how technology will impact the way nurses work. He predicts more tasks will become automated, using industries such as the airlines and accounting as examples.
In a recent survey by Jackson Healthcare on nursing attitudes and outlook, 72% of nurses surveyed said their "duties required" have increased, and 51% report an increased patient load. Perhaps these nurses would look forward to the automation Williams is predicting.
I'd like to bring in other numbers to challenge the predictions that can take the shortage in the other direction. The American Society of Registered Nurses found around 43% of newly licensed RNs in California can't find jobs within 18 months of graduation; and the annual study by the National Student Nurses' Association found that of those graduating from a traditional BSN program in Spring 2012, 28% were not employed as nurses 4 months later.
If you can get a recruiter to talk about it, you'll find that most say once a grad is out of school for a year, they are no longer considered a "new grad" - whether or not they have clinical experience. So if they don't have clinical experience, how will they get hired? Ask any grads who can't find work and you'll hear this: "I can't get hired because I don't have experience and I can't get experience because no one will hire me."
When the number crunchers look at the availability of licensed nurses, they count the 43% of people who are essentially unmarketable because they've been out of school for 6 months or more and have no clinical experience. If this is the case, one could say the shortage will be even worse than predicted, even if robots are doing part of the work.
To avoid a worse shortage than is already predicted, which will result in hospitals incurring additional costs for hiring, training and employing, the industry must find a way to get current eligible nurses the experience they need so they can be hired when positions are available. It's called investing in the future.
Hospitals, communities, government, schools and industry stakeholders should come together to find ways to keep these educated and licensed nurses in the workforce, prepared to care for our aging population. Instead of recruiting more and more people to go to school to become nurses, let's make sure the ones we have are rewarded with the experience they need.