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The Nursing Crisis: Will They Be There When We Need Them?
|Published by www.Hillwatch.com
|The Nursing Crisis: Will They Be There When We Need Them?
By Marla Spergel
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As we get old and gray and more infirm, who will answer the buzzer when we ring? The seeming inability of our healthcare system to recruit and retain a sufficient number of nurses is becoming a major public policy issue. This is not simply a Canadian issue but seems to be an issue in many parts of the globe.
There is a greater demand for medical care as the population ages.
The Nursing work force is graying. The average age of a nurse today is 44.
Many Canadian trained nurses have opted for the United States. Unless this outflow can be reversed, it is projected that by the year 2011, there will be a shortfall of 59,000-113,000 nurses.
Enrollment at nursing schools is in decline. The number of new graduates entering the profession has dropped by almost 50% in the last decade. Few students are choosing Nursing as a profession.
The demand has increased for more baccalaureate prepared nurses for hospitals and specialty nurses for intensive care units, operating rooms, emergency rooms and acute care areas.
The problems in rural areas are more acute. For example, 15%-53% of nursing positions in First Nations Communities are either vacant or filled on a temporary basis. It takes anywhere from 10 weeks to 8 months to fill a vacant position and can cost up to $35,000 to the health care system to fill each one. See Aboriginal Nurse Association of Canada
We have been importing nurses but this does not appear to be a long-term solution. It also raises the ethical question of exacerbating the nursing shortage problems in other countries.
Underlying the problems of the aging of the profession, nurses quitting, and nurses leaving the country, are the job conditions under which nurses work in Canada. Many Nurses are denied full time jobs, having to chase shifts. Others are over worked, facing mandatory overtime, sometimes working up to 10 overtime shifts a month. Stress levels are high and moral is low. While we are in dire need of Nurses today, only a few years ago that due to drastic budget cuts provincially, nurses were being laid off resulting in the loss of full-time permanent jobs that included benefits.
To have more nurses properly trained and motivated will require investment in the education, training and salaries and benefits. But these decisions are occurring against the backdrop of a healthcare system lacking strong brakes on costs and a public reluctant to pay higher taxes.
Health Canada has recognized the Nurse Retention issue. Federal, provincial and territorial ministers recently released A Nursing Strategy for Canada. There have been efforts to address the First Nations Nursing Issues and some important recent initiatives to provide additional support for rural health including recent announcement for Northern Ontario and Nunavut.
The Canadian Nurses Association is seeking $40 million a year over five years:
$10 million would be allocated to recruitment and retention strategies
$20 million would be spent on research
$10 million would be used to ensure that the research findings were applied.
The Canadian Association of University Schools of Nursing has come forward with a national nursing education strategy to ensure that people are attracted to a nursing career; there is adequate, coordinated support for the needed educational infrastructure and qualified teachers; sufficient encouragement and support for practicing nurses to seek additional training; and there is stability in the government funding provided.
More information about nursing and these issues can be found on the following sites:
Top Nursing Sites
International Council of Nurses
Nurse Retention, Transfer & Migration
Nursing Links Around the World
American Association of Colleges of Nursing
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
Canadian Medical Association Journal article on the impact of hospital closures
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