There is a serious shortage of healthcare professionals in the US healthcare system at the moment and estimates show that this problem is not about to go away anytime soon either. Read on to find out why this is, and what can be done about it.
Understanding the Shortage
Primary caregivers, medical assistants and other non-medical healthcare workers are not of concern here, because the qualifications for such posts are easily met and can be filled by individuals with little to no medical training. The problem however, becomes more evident when we take a look at the total number of licensed nurses registered across the entire US healthcare industry. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated back in 2018, that by the year 2020, the healthcare industry will need an additional 1.1 million nurses, which is of course, not a criterion that can be completely fulfilled within the short time left. The American Nurses Association (ANA) on the other hand, predicts that by the time 2022 is here, the country will need more nurses than any other professionals in any field, which is both good news and bad news at the same time. The increased demand will lead to significantly higher salaries and zero unemployment for working nurses, but it also means there will be a significant shortage for nurses that will be felt throughout the nation. Rural USA will perhaps suffer the most because there is already a shortage of both doctors and nurses in the interior regions. There are not enough licensed medical practitioners to maintain the government healthcare facilities properly in the rural parts of states such as South Dakota, Texas and New Jersey even now. If the growing demand for general nurses and autonomous nursing leaders such as nurse practitioners are not met, the difference between demand and supply can become a serious issue for the government to deal with.
The Current Number of Nurse Practitioners, Median Salaries and Employment Rates
In accordance with a report published on the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) in January 2019, there are more than 270,000 licensed NPs in the United States. As should be expected from a highly sought-after profession, the unemployment rate for nurse practitioners is 0.7% and dropping. Even the 0.7% of the unemployed professionals are mostly NPs who do not wish to relocate to a place where there is vacancy. According to data published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2018, the average salary of the nurse practitioner is $110,030. While an exact figure cannot be ascertained without proper data, it is believed that by the end of 2019, the annual median wage will likely go past the $115,000 mark quite easily, if not much higher. The data also shows that the highest paid nurse practitioners work in California, where the average median wage is $133,780, or $64.32/hour. Although the state of New York has a much lower median wage or hourly wage ($120,970 or $58.16/hour) for NPs as compared to California, New York has the highest employment rates for NPs nonetheless. As expected, the employment rate for nurse practitioners in California sits in the second position, right after that of New York. The highest earners in the field of nurse practitionership work in the private/personal care industry, where even the median wage is as high as $67.20/hour or $139,770 per year. It doesn’t come as a surprise though, that the physician’s offices and clinics hire more nurse practitioners than any other place, albeit at a much lower media wage of $107,530 or $51.70/ hour. It further highlights the need for efficient and highly qualified nurses in prime US medical care centers. As the pressure of work and the need for more qualified medical practitioners begins to reach a crescendo by 2022, it is expected that the NP’s salary, along with the salary of all nurses in general, will rise at unprecedented rates, which cannot be estimated right now. If there was ever a time for fulltime nurses to complete their online BSN to NP programs, it is definitely now.
A Summary of the Facts and Data
To sum up the facts stated, simpler conclusions can be drawn with the help of the following points:
- There is a lack of sufficient nursing staff and leaders in the US medical healthcare system currently
- The shortage is about to grow significantly in the very near future
- The present opportunities in terms of building fruitful careers through online BSN to NP programs are tremendous
- NPs are already one of the top earners in the field of nursing, but the job is going to pay even more
- Unless the growing demand is met, the available nurses will have to take on a lot more work
How Nursing Practitioners are the Solution
Multiple states have decided to give partial or total autonomy to nurse practitioners, including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and even Washington to name just a few. By the end of 2020, it is expected that various other state governments will also adopt similar policies to counter the current shortage for medical leaders in nursing, and also to prepare before the healthcare situation gets any worse. The states that have already taken the decision are particularly short on medical services in general, and not just nursing staff. By providing NPs with autonomy, the state governments have seen some encouraging results already. To properly understand how important those decisions were for the citizens, a visit to one of the FNP clinics in these states is highly advised. Doctors seldom come out to rural areas and even the few of them that do are almost always understaffed and overworked. When family nurse practitioners within small communities are able to legally prescribe medication to suffering families, lives are saved, bodies and minds are healed and, most importantly, hope and health thrives in remote places where none had existed before. There are of course, limits to how much and what a NP can do, but that limit is seldom stretched. Nurse practitioners with an additional DNP in particular, are as close to being a doctor as any medical professional can get, short of actually going to med school. As a matter of fact, NPs are often found to guide young doctors with their significant knowledge and experience in real life scenarios.
The Role of Online Higher Education for Nurses: It Can Help Solve the Crisis
The World Wide Web has solved more problems than we give it credit for, and the ability to complete higher education, even when you are a fulltime professional, is just one of the most prolific benefits among many others. It also holds the key in solving the current crisis in healthcare. Nurses with actual experience and a bachelor’s degree do not need to attend traditional nursing schools anymore in order to pursue better careers with bigger opportunities with a master’s degree. This makes a huge difference, and the following should help clarify that claim:
- Lower fees due to the online nature of such courses make it more affordable
- The expenses of the daily commute and temporary lodging are eliminated, making online MSN degrees even more affordable
- Online BSN to NP programs, or any other online bachelor’s/master’s degree courses are always flexible
- The flexibility makes it possible for nurses with fulltime jobs to pursue them, whereas before, they simply couldn’t
- Holding a job means that the flow of income continues, making higher education loans a lot more affordable
- Nurses gain experience and higher education simultaneously
The Importance of Accreditation for Online Nursing Programs
In order to meet the growing demand for nursing staff and leaders, online courses have risen to great popularity in the last two to three years. Nursing professionals with the experience and a BSN should definitely consider the online BSN to NP programs because of the reasons already stated, but only as long as they are accredited and reputed. As it is with all fields of monetary potential, there are multiple fraudulent and unaccredited websites out there to be watchful of. In order to become a licensed nursing practitioner with a specialty in the professional’s choice, they should primarily look for CCNE accreditation in online BSN to NP programs. However, online nursing universities with a proper reputation come with local or state accreditations as well. Carson-Newman was selected as one of the best regional universities in the United States by US News last year, and all of their online BSN to NP programs come with accreditations from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the Tennessee Board of Nursing and of course, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The healthcare industry might be facing a shortage of nursing staff and nursing leaders right now, but there is still hope. Due to the growing acceptance of NP autonomy, the potential for soaring salaries, the ease of completing online education and the promise of almost guaranteed employment at all times, it is possible that the demands will be met within the next five years. That can only happen though, if more people are willing to pursue nursing as their career and the present nursing force decides to educate themselves further.