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Is the Nursing Shortage a Real Crisis? What Can We Do About It?

For years we've heard that there's a shortage of nurses in the U.S. and that the demand is only going to increase. Well in the past year there has been buzz circulating about an inevitable nursing “crisis” that will be twice as bad as anything we've seen since the advent of Medicaid in the 1960s. Is this just hype, or are we really running low on nurses to the point of it being worthy of being called a crisis? It turns out there's some truth behind this concern, as more than a third of all nurses are going to reach retirement age within the next 10-15 years, thereby leaving the field severely shorthanded unless we see a strong influx of new nurses appearing at some point in the next 2-5 years.

The Window of Opportunity

It goes without saying that earning an advanced nursing degree like a master of science nursing is going to take some time – 4 years to be exact. That means if you want to take that route into the healthcare profession you should expect to wait 4-5 years before you have the degree and are eligible for a well paying job in the field. The good news is, any upcoming nurses starting now will be in an ideal position to replace the exodus of older nurses that are leaving for retirement or other sectors. Fortunately, online programs have made it possible to earn a nursing degree from home, so potential newcomers can't make the excuse that they don't have the time or flexibility in their schedule.

Spreading Awareness

Educators and elders within communities should strive to dispel those myths and shed light on some of the facts – such as the nursing field having an incredibly low unemployment rate of only 2%. Every year more than 250,000 job ad postings are listed for nursing positions around the country. By letting the younger generation know these statistics we can encourage more people to become nurses and address this very real healthcare crisis.

Facing the Fear of Risk

We've all seen the stories about people who've spent 2 to 4 years earning their degrees only to be stuck working in an unrelated field for lower wages than they had expected. There's a common misconception that going to college is too risky to be worthwhile because of the minority of students who go on to misuse or neglect their degrees. The fact is this type of thinking is self-defeatism. People are looking for a reason to shy away from the task at hand, even though it is a very real public health issue that is developing before our eyes.

What Happens if We Don't Take Action?

Unfortunately, the future of healthcare in the U.S. doesn't look appealing if we're unable to address the nursing shortage. We could see emergency rooms having wait times that are twice as long as they already are. With rates of chronic illnesses increasing and an aging population overall, we need the younger generation to step forth and become nurses within the next decade.

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