Improving Patient Care in the Face of a National Nurse Shortage

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Patient care is suffering due to the lack of nurses in hospital units. According to a study by the Journal of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, 46.8 percent of all nurses made a medication error due to a high patient to nurse ratios. This same study recommends increasing the number of nurses and adjusting the workload in the emergency department to enhance patient safety.

While the shortage of nurses has been a constant problem, it is currently reaching critical proportions with no relief in sight. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nursing is one of the most rapidly growing jobs in the market.


The bureau also predicted that by 2024 nearly 450,000 new nursing jobs will be created with an estimated over 1 million vacancies. The aging population is fueling the demand for health care as 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 years old each day. In addition, over one-third of the nursing population is over the age of 50. It is estimated that more than 700,000 nurses will be leaving the workforce by 2024.

In response to the shortage, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin introduced H.R.3351 Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act 2017, which allocates up to 8,000 visas annually for nurses, physical therapists and other healthcare professionals who are in critical need and in short supply.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nursing schools turned away 64,067 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2016 due to an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.

Since the U.S. cannot produce the supply of nurses to keep up with the demand, some innovative hospitals have been relying on the recruitment of international nurses to staff their units. “I’ve been a CNO since 2004, in various locations, and in every location, I’ve had international nurses.


For 13 years there has been a steady supply for healthcare organizations across the country, not just my hospital,” says Pam Bradshaw, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, CCRN-K.

As the CEO of an international nurse staffing agency, I have seen a dramatic increase in demand for our nurses. Hospitals in all regions are experiencing the stress of caring for a high volume of patients with limited staff resources. The Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act will serve to relieve hospitals by increasing the pipeline of qualified nurses available.

All applicants under the Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act must be cleared by a special visa screen process, which is unique to this employment-based visa category. The nurses must pass an English proficiency exam, have their foreign education evaluated for comparability to an identical U.S. education, and apply for and pass the U.S. nursing licensing examination called NCLEX.

The worsening shortage will require a comprehensive approach to meet the growing demand for patient care. Experienced and highly qualified internationally educated nurses can immediately fill these vacant positions. Bill H.R.3351 helps to ensure that quality healthcare is available to all American patients.


About the Author

Shari Dingle Costantini, Founder and CEO of Avant Healthcare Professionals