Health Care

Sandra Bibb: Nursing shortage in the United States

Sandra Bibb
Sandra Bibb Courtesy photo

Registered nurses with baccalaureate degrees are one of the top occupations projected to have the most job growth in the U.S. between 2014 and 2024, according to a Dec. 8, 2015, United States Bureau of Labor Statistics news release. The labor department projected an estimated increase of 16 percent in those jobs.

However, with the increasing numbers of aging baby boomers, onslaught of demands created by 21st century health care reform, and disparity between baccalaureate degree program capacity and number of applicants for schools of nursing across the U.S., there is a shortage of registered nurses with baccalaureate degrees.

The 2010 Institute of Medicine publication “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health” highlights the critical role of nursing in this era of health care reform.

This landmark report outlines several recommendations for mobilizing the nursing workforce to help address the complex health and well-being needs of patients, families, communities and populations in the U.S.

These recommendations include initiatives and efforts targeted toward:

▪ removing practice barriers for advanced practice nurses

▪ expanding opportunities for nurses to lead and diffuse collaborative efforts

▪ implementing nurse residency programs

▪ increasing the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree from 50 to 80 percent by 2020

▪ doubling the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020

▪ engaging nurses in lifelong learning

▪ enabling nurses to lead change to advance health

▪ building an infrastructure for the collection and analysis of interprofessional health care workforce data.

An update of the 2010 report recently published in December 2015 indicated that the nursing profession is making progress in advancing these recommendations, but also clearly supports that nursing cannot address the complex health and well-being needs of the U.S. population alone.

Specifically, in the 2015 update, the Institute of Medicine concludes that nurses should continue making progress on the recommendations while building and strengthening coalitions with stakeholders inside and outside of nursing to improve population health and access to care for all.

Yes, progress is being made in increasing the percentage of registered nurses with baccalaureate degrees, increasing the number of advance practice nurses, and increasing the number of nurses academically qualified to teach in schools of nursing.

But, to effect the change needed to deal with the complex health and health care needs in the U.S., higher education institutions, health care facilities, health professions, health and health care organizations, secondary schools, professional organizations, and legislative and regulating bodies must work together to resolve the numerous issues associated with the shortage of registered nurses in the U.S.

The College of Health Professions at Wichita State University offers nursing programs at the baccalaureate, master and doctoral degree levels.

The School of Nursing offers high quality accredited, traditional and accelerated baccalaureate degree programs; a registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing fully online program; a master of science degree with concentrations in nursing education or nursing administration; and an advance practice nurse doctor of nursing practice program with a nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist option.

Addressing the shortage of registered nurses in the U.S. is key to improving access to quality health care for all Americans and offering high quality nursing programs is a start. But, there is so much more that must be done to resolve the shortage.

Registered nurses make up the largest segment of providers of health care in the U.S. with over 3 million working in hospitals, schools, communities, public health centers and higher education institutions.

Mobilizing the registered nurse workforce will significantly impact the health of the nation. But it will take a village of health care industry stakeholders to resolve the numerous issues associated with the shortage of registered nurses in the U.S. Educational institutions will not be able to resolve the nursing shortage working alone.

Educational institutions alone cannot implement the change needed to improve population health and ensure access to care for all. It will take a village of health care stakeholders working together to meet the demands of current health care reform.

Sandra Bibb, who holds a doctorate in nursing science from the University of San Diego, is dean and professor in the College of Health Professions at Wichita State University.