What solutions are then available to improve the nursing shortage? I will divide the solutions in two macro groups and examine each.
Group 1: involves the education and promotion of the nursing profession. These solutions are not new but achieving them have proven to be a complex and lengthy process.
- A joint effort by healthcare, philanthropic and government organizations in conjunction with the universities to increase the number of seats available to educate new nurses. This involves:
- provide scholarships at all levels to study nursing
- increase the number of programs that are helping non-nursing college graduates pursue nursing (these programs usually take 16 months plus a few basic science prerequisites)
- incentives to bring more professionals into the educational roles, both as faculty and as preceptors. There is a huge need to add both money and prestige to become faculty!
- many organizations offer tuition reimbursement for nurses to advance their careers, but few promote the pivot to become nursing faculty (that is particularly strange in large university based medical centers!)
- expand offerings for academic programs to add flexible evening and weekend classes
- Large efforts are needed to promote nursing as an exciting and well compensated career path.
- I have yet to see attempts to offer high schoolers vocational classes that lead into nursing. I am not talking about courses in the basic science prerequisites, but some innovating (and motivating) class that reflects the value and enormous scope of the profession!
- healthcare organizations also need to promote nursing to the younger generation. So much capital is spent in incentives, temp agencies, and recruitment efforts but little to none on opportunities to intern and shadow… nursing has plenty of talent to develop these forums for students to learn and build up skills.
- the U.S. has a professional value system where financial reward outshines communal service. Nursing provides a “better” hybrid than professions like teaching, social work, or psychology that in general offer lower compensations (this is a fact not a value statement on my part!). However, little is marketed about it!