The status of the nursing profession
According to the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey, there are almost 4.2 million registered nurses (RNs). This makes nursing the fifth-largest ranking occupation in the U.S. and the highest ranking profession within health care. Per the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), though, there’s still a projected nursing shortage of 260,000 nurses by 2025.
Nurses are integral to the U.S. health care system. Nurses are present in nearly every health care setting, and brandish a set of diverse skills that range from communication to technical life-saving measures.
Findings from the AACN suggest that highly educated nurses with a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) are associated with greater patient outcomes, including lower mortality and failure-to-rescue rates.
Why is there a nursing shortage?
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were signs of a nursing shortage and that has been exacerbated by world events. There are a variety of factors that contribute to this shortage, including:
- An aging population
The retirement of the baby boomer generation is expected to have a huge impact on the looming nursing shortage. From 2011 to 2019, the population of 65 and older citizens grew by 73%.
- An aging nurse workforce
In the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey, it was reported that the median age for registered nurses is 52, with 19% of RNs ages 65 or older. As current nurses retire and people live longer, there is an increased demand for skilled health care workers.
- Greater occurrence of chronic illness
The rise of chronic diseases leads to an increase in the number of nurses required to care for patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as six in ten Americans have at least one chronic disease.
- Shortage of nursing educators
Current nursing teachers are also aging out of employment years, leaving less resources to educate future nurses. The AACN reports that as many as one-third of the qualified nursing faculty working across baccalaureate and graduate programs are projected to retire by 2025.
How does nurse staffing affect patient care?
Well-managed nurse staffing levels can lead to positive patient outcomes. Adequate nurse staffing levels can reduce infection rates and failure-to-rescue incidents. Fully-staffed nursing teams can also reduce the duration of hospital stays and decrease the number of patient deaths.
It’s been discovered that by hospitals scheduling more BSN-holding nurses and reducing overtime hours, they may experience lower organizational costs. These adjustments are also connected to fewer patients being readmitted or visiting the emergency room again within 30 days of discharge. Further, the AACN reports that a 10% increase in the proportion of registered nurses holding a Bachelor of Science in nursing resulted in a 10.9% decrease in the rate of patient mortality.
How can nurse staffing shortages be addressed?
There's good news. According to the AACN, enrollment in nursing programs is up by 5.6% nationwide. This may be due, in part, to the flexibility of online programs. Graduates are passing the NCLEX and entering the health care system with competence.
“The RN to BSN program provides students with critical knowledge in evidence-based practice, innovation, leadership and management, public health and research that prepares graduates to provide person-centered care and address the evolving needs of a complex health system,” said Arizona State University clinical professor Brenda Morris.
Nursing degree options for different stages of your education and career
Nursing is a profession with ample opportunity for growth and leadership, which is why now is the best time to pursue a nursing degree online. Whether you’re looking to up your credentials with an RN to BSN online or you’re ready to move from the clinical setting to the classroom, there’s a degree or certificate option available to you.
Current ASU Online nursing program offerings include: