Healthcare Finance News recently published an article about a new study by the Health Resources and Services Administration, which found that the nursing workforce is growing and diversifying.
The study reported that the number of licensed registered nurses in the U.S. grew to a new high of 3.1 million between 2004 and 2008, an increase of more than 5 percent. The study also found a 4.6 percent increase from 2004 to 2008 in the percent of nurses who are Asian, Black/African/American, American Indian/Alaska Native and/or Hispanic.
This further supports my previous assertions that it is possible the nursing shortage has been overstated. When we have “nursing shortages” in a patient care delivery setting, we are able to find a contract nurse to fill the slot. I think that if all the nurses filling more lucrative contracted positions would take permanent employment, the perceived shortage would quickly diminish.
In addition, because of recent layoffs in many other industries due to the global economic crisis, more students are applying to nursing schools. When trained, having put forth the money and time, they will not leave a profession where there is much greater job stability.
In fact, the White House/Congressional Leadership Reconciliation Bill [Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (H.R. 4872)] which was just passed by the House and signed by President Obama yesterday, includes additional investments to improve health care workforce training and development, some of which focus on nursing specifically. For instance, the bill aims to address the projected shortage of nurses and retention of nurses by increasing the capacity for education, supporting training programs, providing loan repayment and retention grants, and creating a career ladder to nursing. (Initial appropriation in fiscal year 2010.) It also provides grants for up to three years to employ and provide training to family nurse practitioners who provide primary care in federally qualified health centers and nurse-managed health clinics. (Funds appropriated for five years beginning in fiscal year 2011.)
Nurses are such a vital part of the care delivery process that what cannot be overstated is the importance of this issue. However, I believe it is possible to meet the nursing shortage we are feeling now, and am hopeful that these investments in encouraging future students to pursue nursing will further enable us to put care within reach of all those who need it.