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Nursing Shortage in the United States - Essay Example

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The shortage of nurses in the United States is a historical trend that emerged in 1998, peaked in 2002, and is predicted to continue past 2020 (Allen, 2008). The shortage results from joint causes, such as "rising demand, little growth in registered nurses (RN) wages, demographic changes in the RN workforce that decreased the supply of working RNs, and a stressful hospital workplace environment" (Beurhaus et al., 2005, p854)…
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Nursing Shortage in the United States
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Download file to see previous pages This paper will describe the impacts of the nursing shortage on health care consumers, nurses, and public health. It will examine the debate surrounding the nursing shortage and explain how the issue is being addressed on local, state, and national levels. Finally, the paper will propose some ideas for minimizing the nursing shortage problem.
The shortage of nurses in America's hospitals results in negative impacts for health care consumers, nurses, and the health care system. A survey conducted by Beurhaus et al. (2005) examined the experience of RNs, physicians, hospital CEOs and CNOs with the nursing shortage and analyzed the results in terms of nurses' ability to meet the six Institute of Medicine (IOM)-established aims for high quality health care systems: patient-centered, effective, safe, timely, efficient, and equitable. The survey found that each of these criteria for quality of care suffered due to the nursing shortage (ibid.).
In terms of direct patient care, the nursing shortage results in a decline in the quality of patient care. The Beurhaus et al. survey (2005), found that patient care suffered specifically because of a delayed response by nurses to pages or calls, patients increasingly complaining about care, staff communication problems, and increasing physicians' workloads. The results of the decline in patient care are worrisome. An American Nurses Association (ANA) fact sheet about the national nursing shortage (2008) highlights the results of recent studies published in medical journals that show how the shortage puts patient's lives in danger:
"If hospitals increased RN staffing, more than 6,700 patient deaths and four million inpatient days could be avoided each year."
"Every additional full-time nurse per patient day was associated with a 9% reduction in mortality in intensive care patients and a 16% reduction in mortality in surgical patients. In addition, every additional patient per RN shift was associated with a 53% increase in pulmonary failure, a 43% increased risk on unplanned extubation, a 7% increased risk of hospital acquired pneumonia, and a 17% increased risk in other medical complications."
"Nursing shortages were found to correlate with longer lengths of stay, increased incidence of urinary tract infections and upper gastrointestinal bleeding, higher rates of pneumonia, shock and cardiac arrest. Increased hours of RN care resulted in fewer "failure-to-rescue" deaths from pneumonia, shock or cardiac arrest, upper gastrointestinal bleeding, sepsis and deep venous thrombosis."
The impact of the nursing shortage also adversely affects nurses. In relation to their interaction with patients, nurses suffer because they have less time for collaboration within staff teams, face greater difficulty maintaining patient safety, are less able to detect complications early on, and have less time for patients (Beurhaus et al., 2005). In order to compensate for a lack of staff, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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