It is expected that by the year 2020, a significant number of the baby boomers generation will be retiring from the workforce. Amongst the many retirees will be many nurses whose retirement is projected to create a nursing shortage. Of key importance is that the nursing shortage will coincide with an increase in the number of elderly aged over 65 years who have increased health care needs (Keenan & Kennedy, 2003). This paper will review the impact the projected nursing shortage will have on the nursing profession and on the public.
The projected nursing shortage will have an adverse impact on the nursing profession. It will exacerbate the preexisting shortage and thus increase the workload on the nurses in the workforce. An increase in the nursing workload may lead health instituions to implement mandatory overtime policies. Overall, the increased workload and pressure from work will lead to staff demotivation and dissatisfaction. The retirement of the baby boomers will in addition affect the number of nurse educators and in effect, limit the capacity of educational instituions to train more nurses. It will also lead to an increased need for nurses which may lead to poaching of nurses from other countries. The recruitment of nurses from foreign countries will create a shortage in their countries of origin (Keenan & Kennedy, 2003).
In regard to the public, the nursing shortage will impact the quality of care and health outcomes of patients. Previous studies have established that an increase in the number of registered nurses care per day for every patient improves outcomes including shortening the length of inpatient stay and lowering the rates of hospital acquired infections such as pneumonia and deaths due to faIlure to rescue. Therefore, the projected nursing shortage is bound to increase the number of avoidable medical errors due to long working hours and increased workloads (Lankshear, Sheldon, & Maynard, 2005). The shortage will also impact on accessibility of care. Nurses comprise the largest group of all health workers. They provide a considerable propoortion of primary and home based care. A nursing shortage will, therefore, limit the public’s access to quality health care.
The nursing profession through the various professional bodies and organisations is trying to create awareness of the prjected nursing shortage and its impact amongst educational instituions, media, policy makers amongst other relevant bodies and the publics. It is hoped that this awareness will elicit and strenghen efforts aimed at curbing the shortage such as increased enrollment in nursing schools (Keenan & Kennedy, 2003).
In summary, this paper has reviewed the effects of the projected nursing shortage on the nursing profession and the public. The shortage will have adverse effects on nurses job satisfaction and motivation. In respect to the public, it will negatively influence the quality of care, accessibility, and patient health outcomes. In recognition of these potential adverse impacts, the nursing profession through professional bodies is trying to create awareness of the issue amongst relevant bodies and instituions.
Keenan, P. & Kennedy, J. F. (2005). The nursing workforce shortage: Causes, consequences, proposed solutions.Retrieved from http://www.commonwealthfund.org/usr_doc/Keenan_nursing.pdf
Lankshear, A. J., Sheldon, T. A., & Maynard, A. (2005). Nurse staffing and healthcare outcomes: a systematic review of the international research evidence. ANS Adv Nurs Sci., 28(2), 163-174.