I ran across and article in CNN news about “Hospital Deserts.” It spoke to the current nursing shortage and alluded to the disastrous one on the horizon.

It’s not for lack of students. Nursing is a very sought-after profession, and as I pointed out in last week’s blog, still number one in the Gallup poll for the most trusted and ethical profession.

The thing is there are several frightening factors that are turning into the perfect storm for causing such a shortage. One, nurses are retiring faster than there are nurses to fill those positions. (Talk about an aging America!)

Then, for several reasons, schools are turning away qualified students by the droves: to the tune of 56,000 students in 2017, compared to 30,000 the previous years.

Faculty at nursing schools are leaving for higher paying jobs in the profession. The annual vacancy factor is 7%, equaling 1,565 teachers — when there weren’t enough to begin with. These are master’s and Ph.D. cardholding nurses who are making less than nurses with lesser degrees working in the field.  

Then let’s add to this professional hurricane the shrinking clinical sites since the criteria for being a clinical site, as defined by our government, has become stricter. (Think “stars,” people.)

Then let’s throw on the wise decision to make the clinical rotation into smaller groups for better, advanced clinical training since Americans are living longer, but not necessarily healthier.

The thing is, this is not a new problem. We’ve known for quite a long time (anyone remember the first Johnson and Johnson “Be a Nurse Campaign”?) that we as a profession are shrinking. It is just getting worse.

We need one million more nurses by 2022 — just 4 short years, and since most nursing schools are now only accepting on average 55 to 65 students twice a year, I don’t think we will get close to that number.  (I’m no mathematical genius but …)

I have heard that there are other progressive countries that put this puzzle together. Aging citizens, more complicated healthcare, a need for a lot more nurses … and they did something about it. The government supported faculty at state schools, and not only waived tuition for nursing students (whom, of course, must meet strict criteria) but paid them a stipend so they could live while in school. There are no spring or winter breaks, and an RN degree is completed in three years. In return, you work where you are placed (in your geographical area) in a needed spot for four years. After that, you are free to work where you wish.

So here’s what I don’t get: Why haven’t we looked at even a somewhat similar model? And if not, shouldn’t we — before it’s too late?

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, Senior Director of Clinical Innovation and Education for Mission Health Communities, LLC  and an APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.