With the increase in demand for health care worldwide, many developed economies are facing a critical nursing shortage which is expected to rise over the years if necessary action is not put to effect. According to the bureau of labor statistics, the medical professional is expected to grow by 19% by 2022. While this is only a projected growth, many variable factors may affect the overall growth of the industry. Compared to an 11 percent projected growth for all occupations, the workforce is expected to grow if the government and private sector come up with strategies on how to meet the gap. According to the Vanderbilt university medical report released on February 2002, many Americans are concerned about the impact the shortage will have on the quality of medical care they receive. With the continuous population growth in need of healthcare services, a decline in students enrolling in nursing programs and an already existing aging workforce that needs to retire, this problem may present a big issue in the near future. In this paper, we analyze the possible strategies the government and private sector can employ to deal with this problem of staffing in the medical profession.
In many hospitals across the country, many unfilled nursing positions are a common feature which is affecting the delivery of medical care. The health care facilities are forced to make do with the few with some being force to refuse new patients as is common in the long term care facilities for the old. The shortage in the workforce can be attributed to variable factors that are interrelated. Job dissatisfaction together with the shortages of schools that offer these professions is just but a few of the possible reasons as to why there is a shortage of staff in hospitals. While these reasons may be argued to have a certain impact on the workforce, many medical facilities have had to come up with better ways to help them address the shortages in the staffing. In the subsequent paragraphs we look at the some of the strategies that can be used.
Patient safety is a key issue that always comes up in the medical profession. Patients always want to be assured that there wants will be taken care of when they go to any facility to seek medical attention. While full recovery cannot always be assured, the staff plays a role in assuring and determining patient safety. The number of staff that is serving the people has an influence on the level of productivity and service. Whether it is nurses, housekeepers, cleaners, therapists or surgeons, productivity is dependent on the amount of workload one is assigned. The duration of the shift one covers can only be limited to a number of hours due to the strenuous nature of the job. This also has an impact on the level of job satisfaction which entails more than just benefits and wages but is a wide concept that involves quality of work, facilities, the amount of overtime work on does, the level of interaction in the workplace.
Most nurses in the medical care complain of low wages and as such the organizations should be encouraged to increase the pay in order to retain employees. It has been a common trend for nurses to shift to other jobs which pay more which is increasingly posing a problem of understaffing (Feldman). While better wages cannot solely have an impact on the level of job satisfaction, it still to some extent plays a significant role in the retention of employees.
Cross training is a new trend that has developed across many professions and is gaining familiarity as a way of dealing with shortages in staffing. It ensures flexibility in that one employee is trained to be able to perform multiple tasks that would have otherwise required other people to perform. Although the staff may take longer to perform the task and not with the same level of specialty as a trained employee, cross training breaks the monotony of work giving employees a sense of how practices work. Although this practice can be used as a method to address the shortages in staffing, as a long term strategy it is not advisable as one ends up with employees that know little of everything but not much of anything (WHO).
The number of staff that operates during a certain shift is a determinant of the level of productivity of the staff. Although this is more of a legislative move, the number of nurses working during a shift should be enough to ensure the level of quality of service is maintained. Although all these factors are inter-related and have to be addressed as a whole, as a long term strategy the investors should initiate training programs to expand the training capacity to meet the demand. Through these activities, hospitals can train their own nurses.
With the increasing demand for medical care, long term strategies need to be initiated in order to deal with the shortages of nurses. While the long term shortages may yield results in the near future short term strategies will have to be implemented to deal with the current situation.
CARE, UC DAVIS CENTER FOR HEALTHCARE SERVICES RESEARCH IN PRIMARY. "Hospital nursing staff ratios and quality of care." 2002.
Feldman, Harriet R. The Nursing Shortage. Springer Publishing Company, 2003.
Gooloo S. Wunderlich, Frank A. Sloan, and Carolyne K. Nursing Staff in Hospitals and Nursing Homes. Washington, D.C.: NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS, 1996.
WHO. "Global health workforce shortage to reach 12.9 million in coming decades." 2015. WHO. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2013/health-workforce-shortage/en/>.
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