Nursing Shortage…It’s complicated.
A little background on nursing shortages (NS). 2022 is not the first time there has been a shortage of nurses. The first documented evidence of NS can be traced back to the mid-1930s. As the Great Depression impacted many in America, the impact was felt in healthcare. Still, shortages were reported in the mid-40s, 60s, late 70s, and late 80s. Some would argue we have never gotten out of the last shortage before COVID. Looking at the past, many NS were related to world events, similar to what we experienced with the pandemic. However, there are some cases where it has been viewed that nurse had caused the NS. In the article, Where Did All the Nurses Go?, “Some blamed nurses themselves for creating the shortage by failing to live up to the ideals of their profession and refusing to work”.⁵ However, valid arguments support nurses’ current decisions to leave the profession.
So, what are the reasons nurses are leaving? Literature suggests multi-factorial complications resulting in the NS. The NS in many hospitals could be viewed as self-imposed given the expectations of nurses being bachelor prepared. (See Nursing Programs: How to Reduce the Shortage and Maintain Quality Education?) Many hospitals before the pandemic would not hire a qualified registered nurse if they did not possess a BSN or had been in a BSN program. According to the numbers, approximately 56% of nurses currently hold a BSN. Thus, the pool of potential candidates becomes limited. So why the limitations? In truth, one only needs to look at The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health** for answers. In this publication, the industry suggests pushing for bachelor prepared nurse to “raise the quality” of care. While many suggest the limitations are to maintain high standards, some argue the clinical experience of an Associate’s Degree (ADN) qualifies nurses to function well at the beside. Furthermore, those same ADN nurses passed the same test to become registered nurses as their BSN peers. So far, most state nursing boards recognize both ADN and BSN as registered nurses on the same level without discrimination. As hospitals refuse to hire ADNs, staffing shortages increase causing these limitations to have far-reaching implications that exacerbate the…