Challenges Facing the Nursing Profession in the 21st Century By: Kerry Z Today there is a national nursing shortage as the healthcare industry rapidly changes. Aging baby boomers mean demands on the healthcare system will only increase in the coming years. Fast forward a few years and we see many challenges ahead for nurses.
Our textbook covers issues such as generational differences in an aging workforce with poor prospects for replacements, high acuity and short staffing, conflict in the workplace, expanding technology, an increasingly intercultural society, and issues involving access, cost, quality of care, safety, and accountability. While these issues are very important, I am going to focus on nursing shortages and the aging population as two challenges nurses in the future must overcome. You’ve likely heard about the nursing shortage for years now, and perhaps you think it’s been resolved.
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However, registered nurses are still at the top of the list when it comes to employment growth. The nursing shortage in simple terms is a lack of skilled practicing nurses. There are many reasons for the lack of nurses such as decreased retention, frequent turnover, and early retirement. Much of the work is being outsourced to traveling nurses, agency nurses, foreign born nurses, or older married nurses (Buerhaus, Staiger & Auebach, 2003). Hospital care is diminishing and going into the community and home. Outpatient and home services are becoming more utilized in health care.
Families are being thrust into caregiver roles, thus leaving nurses to care for the very ill. One of the biggest problems that many prospective nursing students face is the lack of nursing education programs. Although many students may be interested and qualified to enter nursing schools, there just are not enough spots in local nursing programs to accommodate the prospective students. Nurses currently in the field are getting older with poor prospects for replacements. In fact, many nurses are part of the baby boomer generation and are slowing down themselves.
The baby boomer generation started making their way to the age of retirement in 2011. In 2030, 26 percent of the U. S. population will be aged 65 or older, compared with 17 percent today. Soon, this large group of people will require more care, more hospital stays, more nursing home beds, and more nursing care as they age and their health begins to deteriorate. A large influx of patients in a field already short on nursing staff. Not only are the baby boomers large in numbers, they are smart! The days of just telling patients to take a pill are in the past.
These patients are able to monitor things that were at one time only monitored by nurses. They can take their own blood pressure or go to the corner drug store and have it done. Home testing kits make it possible to monitor blood glucose levels. But what does it mean? And how does it affect nurses? The health-care consumer will ask questions and want answers regarding their treatment. Not only will nurses have to instruct the patient on their treatment, but they will also have to provide education on why the treatment is necessary.
Nurses now and in the future must be flexible, fast thinkers, adaptable, well-educated, professional, ethical, and dedicated. Although there are many challenges that nurses faces, I still believe that nursing is the perfect profession for me. Products will be developed to serve the “geezer boom” By Johan Bostrom Sister Rosemary Donley, SC, PhD, RN, C-ANP, is an Ordinary Professor of Nursing and Director, Community/Public Nursing, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. How Well Prepared are You for the Challenges Facing Nurses in the 21st Century? By Kathy Quan, RN BSN PHN Baby Boomer Health Care Crisis Looms ScienceDaily (Apr. 7, 2008) How Boomers Will Impact the Health Care Industry 22 Feb 2010 By: Shelly Gigante The Baby Boomers’ Massive Impact on Health Care By Christina Orlovsky, senior writer Baby Boomers Fuel Thriving Health Industry by SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES July 17, 2008 Cherry, B. & Jacob, S. R. Contemporary Nursing: Issues Trends & Management. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Mosby, 2011 Taylor, C, Lillis, C. & LeMone, P. Fundamentals of Nursing. 7th ed. , Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2011 The Global Shortage of Registered Nurses: An Overview of Issues and Actions, International Council of Nurses (2004) Buerhaus, Staiger & Auebach, 2003