Only in this country does the following logic make sense: We have a shortage of nurses across the country. Health care needs vastly outweigh the supply. As the baby boomers enter their golden ages and require greater care, there is a severe shortage of individuals to provide the care. At the same time, there are long wait lists to enter BSN programs all over the country (sometimes numbering in the years). So we complain about the lack of nursing professionals, but we also ignore the means to produce them, how does that make sense?
There is only one way to produce a nurse – nursing school. It is not a trade that can be self taught, learned on the job, through apprenticeship, or via other means. The path to being a registered nurse always begins with nursing school. Students receive the proper education, work through clinicals, graduate with their class, then find the right fit in the work force (whether it be hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, or ilk). There is no way around that. No short cut that allows you take a test and go past steps one through three. *There are accelerated programs, but those typically involve a greater workload in a shorter period of time. Students can get through them faster, but the greater intensity more than evens things out.
So, nursing schools produce nurses? Not exactly a shocking revelation. But the shocking revelation is that we know that there is a nursing shortage, we have the supply to meet that, and we know how to produce that supply to meet demands…and yet the shortage still exists. There is no lacking for supply of nurses. All over the country, nursing schools are loaded with long wait lists of qualified candidates. There simply are not enough facilities and faculty available to meet the requirements for more students.
The first (and ideal) solution is to expand existing schools or even to add new ones. More schools leads to more available seats which leads to more nursing graduates which creates more nurses. That seems simple enough. The problem is that most medical/nursing schools are publicly funded. Allocating more funds to existing or nursing can only come at the expense of other government or through tax increase – two very unpopular options with the current struggling economy. There are private nursing schools, but these are less likely to willingly expand to needed levels because nursing schools are typically not the profit centers that medical schools can be.
A more realistic option might be to better incorporate foreign nursing schools. While this sounds like an imperfect plan at first, allowing more medical professionals from countries that may not share the US standards, bear with this for a second. Instead of just blindly accepting nurses from a foreign school, work with these programs to ensure that they run a US curriculum and hold their students to American standards. Also, International Schools (such as the American University of Antigua in the Caribbean) can operate at smaller margins than US Schools, providing their services for a lower rate – which makes them attractive to students both inside the United States and out.
We see the problem, we know the reason for the problem. There is no reason not to do something about it.
by Felix Chesterfield
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