Across the United States, there is a growing shortage of healthcare professionals. The state of Ohio is no expectation for this trend. In the Buckeye state, there is a shortage of nurses in a variety of healthcare settings.
But the nations rapidly aging population is creating challenges for the healthcare industry. As Americans age, they require more healthcare. With over 70 million baby boomers entering retirement, the entire system is under strained in ways it never was before.
What the Data is Projecting:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for nurses is projected to increase. This is true for the entire United States, with some states experiencing more demand. The total number of registered nurses (RNs) in the U.S. was roughly 2.7 million as of in 2014. By 2016, this number had jumped to 2,955,200.
Yet, by 2024, the prediction is that the nation will need 32 million nurses. Only two years later, by 2026, this need will grow to 3,393,200 RNs. But, by 2022, over half a million nurses are expected to retire which will constrict the available supply of nurses. Economic slow-downs may suppress the demand for nurses in the short-term, but in the long-term, this demand will likely not diminish. To make matters worse, similar shortages exist and are projected to increase for nurse practitioners (NPs).
The BLS states the employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026. This is actually much faster than the average combined growth of all U.S. occupations which is around 7 percent. What factors are driving this growth:
- The demand for more healthcare services due to an aging population.
- The growth of chronic conditions that come with an aging U.S. population such as mental health needs, obesity, diabetes, arthritis and dementia.
- Financial incentives that encourage hospitals to discharge patients as soon as possible. This will likely encourage the growth of outpatient centers, long-term care facilities and home healthcare.
- The projected growth of elder care and assisted living centers that are able to deliver care on demand.
- More sophisticated procedures being offered in ambulatory care settings, doctor’s offices and surgical centers.
All of the above reasons will require the greater use of registered nurses.
Nursing Shortage in the Columbus Region:
Facility members at Columbus State Community College have noted that Columbus, OH is also experiencing a similar nursing shortage.
College officials have stated that their nursing program is hampered due to a faculty shortage. There has been a movement to expand nursing programs as well as find more nursing educators. Professional associations and higher education are making attempts to increase accessibility, raise wages and improve working conditions.
In Ohio, the occupation of a registered nurse is considered one of the most “in-demand occupation” in the state, according to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). But, in a tight job market, there is substantial competition for skilled talent.
The competition for skilled nurses has been echoed by officials at both Columbus State and OSU agree that the job market is tight in Ohio. This has healthcare providers pushing to fill open nursing positions.
In order to meet this need Ohio State University is has created education programs specifically designed to meet the need for additional nurses. Their Path2BNS allows community college students to more easily transfer to Ohio State’s online registered nursing program.
Student enrollment in Ohio State’s bachelor of science in nursing program has remained fairly stable over the past five years. In 2014, there were 166 students in the program, and by 2018 there were 167 students in the program. But, the Path 2 BNS program has grown from 121 in the 2016-17 to 168 in the 2018-19 school year. The hope is that collaborative relationships like this will help to elevate the nursing shortage in central Ohio.
Remedies, Solutions and Concerns:
Columbus and the surrounding region are better positioned to manage this shortage versus rural areas in the state. However, there are other factors that are impacting the supply of healthcare providers. Industry observers have pointed out that there is substantial turnover in nursing as an occupation. Medical practices, facilities and clinics are getting nurses, but the problem is keeping the nurses.
Out of the 5.2 million licensed nursing professionals in 2013, only 3.6 million of them worked as a nurse during that time. For registered nurses with an active license who were between the ages of 25 to 54, about 44 percent of these RNs did not work in nursing. The reasons for this were workplace-related issues citing factors like burnout, overscheduling, the physical demands of the job, inadequate staffing and lower wages relative to other opportunities.
Multiple nursing groups have stated that many medical facilities that are short on nurses need to look at the underlying issues that are creating these open positions. Many nurses state that people are leaving the field because they feel burned out.
To remedy this problem, the Ohio Nurses Association is advocating that the state of Ohio put a ban on the practice of mandatory overtime for nursing. Advocates of this plan argue that this is a step toward helping keep more nurses from leaving the healthcare field.
Ohio political officials have proposed House Bill 144 which would ban mandatory overtime for nurses. The Ohio Nurses Association supports the bill and stated that mandatory overtime creates overworked nurses which place the safety of patients at risk. A similar measure was also considered during the last Ohio legislative session, but the measure was not passed.
Some medical professionals believe that the real challenge facing nurses is not the required overtime. Instead, they argue that nurses are required to see too many patients. Members of Miami Valley Hospital state that hospital patients increasingly have multiple chronic diseases, which means they require more nursing care. These increased demands on nurses are not just from overtime, but also patient caseloads and the time-consuming task of keeping up electronic health records.
This means that too many nurses are leaving hospital bedside care jobs because they are overwhelmed by their patient caseloads and the overall work environment. This reinforces the argument that there is not just a workforce shortage, but also a problem with retaining nurses. Banning mandatory overtime for nurses could be one piece of creating a work environment that nurses want to stay in.
The Future Growth of Nursing:
In the United States, the number of jobs available to registered nurses is growing much faster than the average for all types of jobs. On the state of Ohio’s public help wanted website, openings for registered nurses is one of the most listed jobs. This is a trend that is likely to continue.
The nursing shortages and workforce retention issues in Ohio reflects the larger issue facing the entire nation. All states are dealing with aging populations, increasing nurse retirements and fewer people entering the workforce. The vast number of health care employers in the Ohio region means that they will have to compete in a highly-competitive job market. But, these kinds of challenges also provide opportunities for collaboration and innovation.
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