The nursing shortage is a complex issue that has significant impacts on the healthcare industry and the public. It leads to nurses taking on larger caseloads, working longer hours, and experiencing fatigue and burnout. These factors can contribute to medical errors and decreased patient outcomes. Additionally, the nursing shortage is influenced by factors such as reimbursement, legislation, regulation, and technological advances.
One of the key consequences of the shortage is its impact on patient care. Higher mortality rates, increased hospital-acquired infections, and medication errors are observed in healthcare settings where there is a shortage of nurses (ANA, n.d.). Patients may also be diverted to facilities farther away from their families, and surgeries may be postponed due to a lack of nursing staff. Longer wait times for patients seeking care are also common in settings struggling with a nursing shortage (ANA, n.d.).
To address the nursing shortage effectively, healthcare organizations must focus on recruitment, maintenance, and retention strategies. Incentives such as sign-on bonuses, competitive wages, and tuition reimbursement are being offered by healthcare institutions to attract and retain nurses. Implementing nurse-patient ratio protocols and providing ongoing training and continuing education opportunities are also strategies employed to combat nurse burnout and shortage (Minority Nurse Staff, 2013).
However, it is important to recognize that the nursing shortage is not solely an issue of the number of available nurses. It can also be attributed to a staffing pattern that does not adequately meet the demands of the healthcare setting. In some cases, nurses may be available, but there is a lack of staffing to support their presence (Coment2). This highlights the need for a comprehensive approach that takes into account the optimization of nursing staff distribution and workforce planning.
Furthermore, the role of LPN/LVN nurses should be considered in addressing the nursing shortage. Phasing out these positions may not be the most effective strategy, as many LPN/LVN nurses do not desire to become RNs or may not have the capacity to do so. LPN/LVNs can play a valuable role in healthcare teams and should not be overlooked in the efforts to address the nursing shortage (Coment2).
One proposed solution is to create teams consisting of three members: an RN, an LPN/LVN, and a CNA. This team structure allows for each member to contribute their unique skills and expertise while providing support to the RN. This approach can alleviate some of the burden placed on RNs and provide opportunities for leadership and education (Coment2).
As an RN, my experiences have highlighted the importance of optimizing the nursing workforce to address the shortage effectively. I have witnessed the impact of short staffing patterns and understand the valuable contribution LPN/LVN nurses can make to the healthcare team. While there may be variations in staffing needs across different healthcare settings, a comprehensive approach that includes a diverse mix of nursing roles is essential in addressing the complexities of the nursing shortage (Coment2).
In conclusion, the nursing shortage has far-reaching implications for both healthcare organizations and the public. It leads to increased workload and burnout among nurses, which can result in medical errors and poorer patient outcomes. Strategies such as recruitment, maintenance, and retention should be employed to address the shortage effectively. Additionally, the role of LPN/LVN nurses should be valued and maintained to optimize workforce distribution. Furthermore, a comprehensive approach that considers staffing patterns and team structures is crucial in mitigating the impacts of the nursing shortage.