A "long-standing" shortage of registered nurses in the U.S. is "expected to worsen" over the next seven years, the AP/Denver Post
reports. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
, about 233,000 additional jobs for registered nurses will open each year through 2016, in addition to about 2.5 million existing positions. However, only about 200,000 candidates passed the Registered Nurse licensing exam last year, and thousands of nurses leave the profession each year, according to the AP/Post.
Several factors contribute to the shortage, including a lack of qualified instructors, decreased funding for training programs and difficult working conditions. In addition, some nursing positions -- such as those in emergency departments or intensive care units -- require experience and expertise, preventing hospitals from hiring "newly minted" nurses for the positions, according to the AP/Post.
According to industry experts, the nursing shortage has operated on an eight- to 10-year cycle since World War II. As the shortage reaches a critical level, the government has added funds and hospitals have upgraded working conditions. However, as the shortage is alleviated, retention efforts are relaxed and working conditions become more difficult, "often driving nurses into other professions," the AP/Post reports.
According to the AP/Post, health facilities have struggled to fill positions despite "strong salaries." Registered nurses' average annual income was $62,480 in 2007, and "usually abundantly available" overtime pay can push salaries to more than $100,000 annually. Cheryl Peterson, director of nursing practice and policy for the American Nurses Association
, said employers must increase salaries and improve working conditions in order to attract and maintain nurses. "The wages haven't kept up with the level of responsibility and accountability nurses have," she said. Solutions
Recruiters for open nursing positions "have been forced to get increasingly inventive" to fill open positions, the AP/Post reports. Some health facilities and organizations are enticing nurses to interview by offering prizes such as cash, gift cards, gas cards, flat-screen TVs, GPS devices and shopping sprees worth as much as $1,000.
In order to improve the situation, many employers are recruiting nurses from overseas. About one-fourth of the nurses who earned their licenses in 2007 were educated internationally, many in the Philippines and India. Some employers are recruiting more nurses than they need to ensure they will have enough at any time (Ramde, AP/Denver Post, 1/5).
Reprinted with kind permission from http://www.kaisernetwork.org
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