Nurses are the unsung heroes of the medical community, working long hard hours on little pay with little recognition and less respect than superior roles in the community, such as doctors and dentists. America has seen its share of strikes and protests amongst the working force, including teachers who went on strike during the last school year. Well, the medical industry may be the next to be shaken by a strike, as more than 7-thousand nurses voted to strike if their contract wasn`t appropriately updated.
Nurses hoped that negotiations would be enough to keep them in their jobs and helping patients, but despite their position as a life changing service, they may walk if they don’t see improvements soon. Nurses in California just saw a modification to their own contracts after months of negotiating. The improvements that nurses want to see in their contracts aren’t just self-serving; many of the requests would be beneficial to the service the community receives, including nurses who are well-rested, protected on the job, and receiving proper breaks for meals.
Making a Change
While wage and better time management are huge issues being battled in negotiations, perhaps the most important issue on the docket is the outrageous ratio of patients to nurses. Medical facilities are overwhelmingly understaffed, making it difficult for nurses to take breaks, have a sick day, or even have a bathroom break, much less take a vacation. Nurses are being overworked and despite their best efforts, the high number of patients means they may also be underperforming.
By the year 2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is afraid that they will see openings for approximately 1-million nurses. This is despite the constantly increasing numbers seen now, including 3-million nurses currently working in America. With so many on the workforce, it seems unprecedented for the country to be in peril of a nursing shortage, and yet it appears to be on the precipice of just that.
The Impending Shortage
Unfortunately, the shortage has less to do with the nursing staff and more to do with the number of patients needing nurses. America is at a point where diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and old age are becoming such prevalent issues in the medical system that there just aren’t enough medical personnel to keep up with it all. Statistics show that the percentage of elderly America will expand from 14-20% over the next 30-35 years, with baby boomers retiring and growing old and young America struggling to keep up with supply and demand.
Is Help on the Way?
The future isn’t as bleak as it sounds where nurses are concerned as there are options and avenues to explore. The government plays a huge role here, because they have the power to provide financial support through greater reimbursement in Medicare, as well as the possibility of tuition reimbursement or student loan relief for nurses who take a high turnover rate position and stay employed for 5 years minimum.
Having more support jobs for nurses helps a little but could add to the problem rather than remedying it, as it adds a second underpaid level of medical care to the industry. Registered nurses are being paid a median of $70-thousand a year around the country, while continuing care assistants and nursing aides are only making around $20-thousand a year. This is a far cry from what nurses are paid and yet these assistants are expected to do much of the same work without the qualifications or respect to go with it.
The nursing problem facing America is a serious one, but not one which can’t be avoided if the country takes precautions and the government faces it head on.