What to Know About the Nursing Shortage of 2020

What to Know About the Nursing Shortage of 2020

You don’t need to look far to see the effects of the nursing shortage of 2020. As the effects of the global health crisis revealed its true extent in New Jersey last April, 64-year-old Filipino-American nurse Victor Sison had no choice but to come to work during days off tofill in for his sick colleagues. Sison died of COVID on April 18 – just one year before his planned retirement. A couple weeks before his death, he posted a photo of himself at work wrapped in garbage bags instead of proper PPE.

Sison’s case is a stark reminder of what our nurses are going through today. Apart from being the state with the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the whole country, New Jersey is also poised to be the state with the third largest shortage of nurses – estimated to reach 11,400 by 2030. This is part of what has led the call from different advocacy organizations to ease the occupational license requirements for immigrants. Given that New Jersey is home to about 14,000 immigrants with under-utilized health-related undergraduate degrees, the state’s advocacy groups feel that such legislation would be one way to address the problem.

Not surprisingly, New Jersey is far from being alone in terms of the nursing shortage. Healthcare workers are also badly needed in cities like Miami, Baton Rouge, Houston, and other locations that continue to struggle with sustained outbreaks. There is an increasing need for respiratory therapists and other front-line, hands-on, bedside medical workers, particularly as the nature of the illness often entails one nurse to be assigned to each critically ill patient. While the hospitals in these cities are improvising PPEs, recycling gowns and masks, converting hospital areas into treatment wards, and doing whatever they can to respond, our medical professionals can only be stretched so much.

“At the end of the day, the capacity for critical care is a balance between the space, staff and stuff. And if you have a bottleneck in one, you can’t take additional patients,” said director of the Acute Research Care Unit at the University of Michigan, Dr. Mahshid Abir. “You have to have all three … You can’t have a ventilator, but not a respiratory therapist.” In short, until the nation’s policymakers figure out better ways to channel our resources towards pandemic response, the nursing shortage not just in New Jersey but across America is likely to worsen and continue.

Notably, America has already been facing a nursing shortage even before the pandemic landed on our shores. Given pre-pandemic projections that around 164 million U.S. citizens will be affected by chronic illnesses by 2025, the demand for nurses has been growing considerably in recent years until today. In fact, online nursing degree holders can expect twice the average growth rate compared to all other careers – namely a 15% increase in job openings until 2026, with the highest median salaries reserved for adult gerontology and pediatric practitioners. And indeed, given the current state of the world, healthcare will continue to be one of the most secure job markets for the foreseeable future.

Written exclusively for Esacademy.com
by Nadia Watts