In every industry, there is a section of workers that flies under the radar and is rather underappreciated. It is this section that often deals with some of the most demanding and stressful conditions in their fields, and without them, many industries would collapse.
Such is the case with nurses in the healthcare industry. Hospitals can already be pretty chaotic places, and if one were to remove nurses from the equation, it would be madness. No amount of specialized medical equipment or highly skilled doctors would make a difference then.
Today, there are about 5.3 million nurses in the US, and if that seems like a small number, you would be correct. Estimates by Becker’s Hospital Review indicate that by the year 2030, an additional 5.7 million nurses will be needed to deal with nursing shortages. Why are we missing more than half the number of required nurses?
Let’s find out.
The Journey Isn’t Easy
One of the reasons that nursing shortages exist in the first place is the demanding nature of the role. In fact, the very process of becoming a nurse involves a significant amount of time and training. Most nurses today are acutely aware that a bachelor’s degree just doesn’t cut it anymore in today’s competitive environment.
For this reason, aspiring nurses often pursue higher education in the form of online FNP programs in order to increase their skills, areas of expertise, and earning potential. An MSN or Master of Science in Nursing is one of the many prerequisites to becoming an FNP or Family Nursing Practitioner.
This is an advanced level of nursing that can work with all age groups. FNP nurses are some of the most highly paid in the field and are also allowed to prescribe medication in several states.
Those hoping for a good wage need to put in a significant amount of time towards such degrees and online programs. To become an FNP, for instance, the total time can range anywhere between 6-10 years depending on the type of path you took and how rapidly you were able to complete each program.
This is something important that people thinking about a career in nursing should consider.
Nursing Is a High-Stress Field
The life of a nurse isn’t known for being a peaceful and relaxed one. Most nurses have to deal with long shifts due to understaffing issues that seem to plague a lot of hospitals.
In addition, the nature of the work can be quite demanding. Needing to give your 100% for extended periods of time is physically and mentally exhausting.
Nurses also find themselves stuck between assisting senior hospital staff and ensuring a high standard of care for patients. It isn’t surprising that burnout is extremely common among nurses.
In a 2021 Nursing Central survey, over 95% of nurses who left their careers expressed feeling burned out.
Another survey of 50,000 registered nurses found that 31.5% cited burnout as the main reason for deciding to leave or switch careers. Nursing can be a thankless career where you rarely feel recognized for the amount of work that you put in.
The fact that nurses can only offer help in a limited capacity also has consequences. There are many instances where they see people in need but are simply unable to help. This often creates feelings of helplessness, and many nurses become depressed and disillusioned in the field.
Prolonged exposure to human suffering and death very much takes a toll on a person, and this has been observed and studied extensively in the world of healthcare.
Nursing is a profession that is likely to be relevant even in what appears to be an uncertain age of automation. The number of nurses that are needed to counter the rate of burnout in the profession is significant. Hospitals and medical institutions need to find ways to deal with short staffing, improve pay and provide benefits.
This can go a long way in retaining nurses.
The aspects discussed in this article are not to discourage those wanting to enter the field of nursing. Instead, they aim to provide insight into the challenges that many new nurses are often unprepared for.
However, while it is true that the field can be extremely stressful, one should remember that a lot of people thrive in such environments. The ability to make a difference in people’s lives can be well worth the stress and challenges.