3 Reasons the US Needs More Nurses

December 21, 2018Diana Lengerson

In the United States, nursing is one of the largest and fastest-growing professions. However, the nation is facing a shortage of nurses that is only expected to become worse as time goes on. There is a multitude of factors affecting this issue, and one of them is that there are some major health crises adding to the problem.

Baby Boomers

Just as a quick refresher, “baby boomer” refers to an individual born in the years between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s. This generation currently makes up almost a quarter of the national population, which means that a significant portion of the country is aging simultaneously. Of course, as we age, we tend to develop more health problems. As a result, the demand for healthcare, and subsequently nurses to provide it, is growing and expected to continue growing rapidly in the upcoming decades.

On the other hand, a significant number of nurses currently in the workforce are also baby boomers who will be retiring in the coming years. Unfortunately, there are currently not enough new nurses entering the field to fill the unemployment gap this will cause.

Opioid Crisis

Another health crisis facing the nation is that of opioid abuse. Opioids include illicit drugs such as heroin, as well as prescription painkillers that are often obtained legally. Unfortunately, these potent substances are easy to become addicted to and overdose on, often resulting in death by drug poisoning. The entire nation has seen an alarming increase in overdose deaths in recent years, leading to government intervention to increase awareness of the danger of these drugs in the general population as well as among healthcare providers.

According to the American Nursing Association (or ANA), nurses are vital in addressing the opioid crisis. Nurses typically spend more time with patients than other caregivers and are often in an ideal position to evaluate a patient’s need for these drugs, in addition to identifying potential abuse issues a patient may have. One school is bridging the gap in this area by giving its nurses opportunities for experience with different patients. Students of the Grand Canyon University nursing program are working with patients who are abusing opioids. Not only does this provide the students with invaluable and unique experience to prepare them for the field, but it also assists in reducing the stigma surrounding addiction.

Mental Health

Mental illness is yet another growing problem across the nation. Approximately one in every five Americans deals with a mental illness, and suicide rates have been rising in recent years. While stigma surrounding it is slowly decreasing, more sufferers are beginning to seek medical help and the demand for this care is far exceeding the supply of mental health professionals available to provide it. This field is also being affected by the baby boomer problem. In 2013, one study found that approximately 70% of practicing psychiatric providers were nearing retirement age at over 50 years old.

The same study suggested that one way to address the shortage of mental health professionals would be to expand prescribing privileges to advanced practice nurse practitioners who specialize in psychiatry. It claims that psychiatry is a field about which there are many misconceptions, and it should be taught in terms of the practical and medical benefits of treating psychiatric conditions.

School Shortage

The shortage is also affecting schools in that many students are having trouble accessing the training and classes necessary to actually become a nurse. There are not enough instructors teaching the discipline to account for the number of nursing students that would need to enter the field in order to fulfill the current and growing demand for them.

Solving the Crisis

The shortage of nurses is a complicated issue, but luckily there are many approaches to fill the demand. Whether it’s providing new, unique training experience like Grand Canyon University nursing, or increasing the awareness of different types of nursing specialties available, there are different avenues being explored, often successfully.

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