Nursing Shortage Called 'National Security Concern'
Library: MED
Keywords: NURSING SHORTAGE SECURITY HEALTH CARE
Description: The shortage of nurses has become a "national security concern," the dean of the Michigan State University College of Nursing says, and those in the profession must work more closely with others in the health care field as well as with state and federal governments if the crisis is to be solved.



Nursing Shortage Called 'National Security Concern'

The shortage of nurses has become a "national security concern," the dean of the Michigan State University College of Nursing says, and those in the profession must work more closely with others in the health care field as well as with state and federal governments if the crisis is to be solved.

In addition, Marilyn Rothert said the profession must offer young people more reasons to become nurses, provide more nurses the opportunity to pursue advanced degrees, and work to restore an image that has become battered and bruised over the years.

"The nursing shortage is already at a level that has been upgraded from a health crisis to a security concern," Rothert said. "The nation does not have adequate nurses for a situation with mass casualties or a situation threatening general public health."

In a report written by Rothert, nursing professor Teresa Wehrwein, and MSU medical ethicist Judith Andre, legislators and other policymakers to are called upon to provide incentives such as low-interest loans, more scholarships and tax incentives for nursing students.

The report, titled "Nursing Workforce Requirement for the Needs of Michigan Citizens," is part of a series designed to keep policymakers informed on critical health policy issues. It was written in cooperation with MSU's Institute for Public Policy and Social Research and the MSU Institute for Health Care Studies.

"As in any crisis, there are multiple opportunities for us to do a lot of things better," said Rothert, who has led MSU's College of Nursing for nine years. "It's imperative that we work closely with state and federal governments, and develop a closer relationship within the heath care industry, if we hope to weather this storm."

Rothert and colleagues say changes must be made within Michigan state government that will help to focus on the nursing crisis and other key health care issues. This would include the formation of a blue ribbon task force and the establishment of a nursing leadership position.

"We also must develop partnerships among government, the health care industry, and education that will enhance efforts to recruit and educate well-qualified individuals to be the next generation of nurses," she said.

These partnerships could result in more academic scholarships, increased funding for nursing colleges, more internships and resident programs for nurses, and the development of strategies to recruit more men and people of racial/ethnic diversity to nursing.

Recruiting is another area that could use some improvement, Rothert said. The recruitment process has to start at the middle school or even elementary school levels, and guidance counselors also must be educated about nursing.

Rothert and colleagues said the image of nursing has taken some hits over the years too.

"Images of hospital mergers and downsizing hurt us because many people think nurses only work in hospitals," she said. "Potential nurses look at the issues of practice control and mandatory overtime and salary. This is a profession in which there are fairly good starting salaries, but over the course of a career they go nowhere."

However, Rothert said the image of nursing is not reality.

"The truth is it's a great time to go into nursing," she said. "The job market is wide open, the opportunities are open, and nurses' roles are emerging and evolving in greater strengths.

"The health care system is seeing a variety of different roles than they've seen before in terms of the practice of nursing and recognizing the need to partner with nurses in the services they offer."

It's projected that by 2020 there will be a 29 percent shortage of nurses to meet society's needs. In addition to not being able to meet the needs of an aging society, the shortage also could put the nation at risk.

Adding to the problem is the issue of age. The average age of the nursing workforce is 46. At nursing colleges, the average age of an assistant professor, usually considered the entry level into the faculty ranks, is 50.

"We're looking at 30 to 40 percent of our faculty who could retire within the next three or four years," Rothert said.

The report also is available on line at http://www.ippsr.msu.edu/Documents/Nursing.pdf

Contact: Marilyn Rothert, MSU College of Nursing
(517) 355-6572
or Tom Oswald, University Relations
(517) 355-2281

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