Online RN to MSN
Clinical Systems Leadership

How APRNs Can Help Solve the Nursing Shortage

There’s a constant need for nurses in critical care settings from professionals who provide routine care for patients to those who administer anesthesia or treat psychiatric illnesses. However, several factors, from a lack of resources in the nursing education system to the demand for caregivers’ services, can create situations where health care workers struggle to meet patients’ needs.

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Many sources point to a current shortage of nurses in the U.S. and predict that the need for trained professionals will only increase in the coming years. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the workforce is expected to increase by more than 500,000 by 2022 and another 525,000 nurses will be needed to replace current workers who retire, leaving more than one million nursing jobs open by 2020. The nation’s aging population is expected to place more strain on the health care system, while an influx of new patients visiting hospitals after passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will place pressure on the current workforce.

Education may be the key
While larger steps may be required to stop the shortage at the organizational level, nurses can prepare themselves to fulfill this demand for skilled practitioners by pursuing higher education.

According to the National Association of Student Nurses, due to the recent recession, many experienced nurses have taken on entry-level jobs that would typically suit recent graduates. Consequently, it has become more difficult for those just finishing their associate’s or bachelor’s degrees to find open positions and to gain valuable hands-on experience.

However, nurses who have continued on to the MSN degree level may be positioned more competitively. These professionals are often better equipped to compete with experienced caregivers, as well as those who hold undergraduate degrees. At University Medical Center in Las Vegas (NV), a recent posting for an experienced nurse received just six applicants while a training position had 125 inquiries, KLAS-TV reported.

Filling in for physicians
Similar to the nursing shortage, primary care physicians are predicted to also be in short supply in the coming years for many of the same reasons. The pay gap that exists between primary care and other specialties also contributes to the shortage of primary care physicians. More highly trained nurses could help ease the burden of a physician shortage as well, according to research published in the journal Health Affairs. By shifting more responsibility for primary care to nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants, the study’s authors said that problems caused by the looming primary care shortage could be alleviated.

If, as the researchers projected, nurses in these specialties continue to outpace physicians, nurses holding MSN degrees could take up much of the burden expected to fall on the health care industry. However, providing the proper training for everyone who seeks an MSN could be a major hurdle.

Nursing educators needed
According to ABC News, 80,000 nursing school applicants are turned away each year due to a lack of faculty and other resources needed to educate them. To meet the growing demand for advanced practice registered nurses, a balance will have to be struck between those who pursue practice-based careers and those who teach the next generation of nursing students.

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