Today is National Nurses Day, so we’re taking a look at the current state of nursing in America and extending a huge “Thank You” to these vital caregivers.
A lot of people are talking about the “future of medicine” these days — things like telehealth, A.I. robosurgies, virtual reality, and genetics receive extensive coverage, as they should. These topics are fascinating and will undoubtedly have a profound impact on healthcare in the short- and long-term; still, all of these transformational technologies will likely mean nothing without the incredible hard work and dedication of one, generally underappreciated group of healthcare professionals: nurses.
Four times more numerous than physicians, nurses actually provide about 80% of all health services rendered. And at hospitals, there’s a direct correlation between higher numbers of nurses and lower rates of patient mortality. This may explain why the quality of care in health centers often suffers on Saturdays and Sundays, when many nurses are off the clock — a problem so pervasive that it has been dubbed the “weekend effect.”
In celebration of National Nurses Day, we’re giving a shout out to the millions of nurses who rarely receive the credit they’re rightly due. Despite their importance, there are many challenges still facing nurses and the industry today.
The Nursing Prognosis
One of the biggest problems: there simply aren’t enough nurses. While the nation’s pool of roughly 3 million nurses is growing faster than almost any other profession, this growth may not keep pace with demand. Nearly 1.2 million vacancies need to be filled by 2024, and according to the Atlantic, a shortage crisis is likely. It doesn’t help that the Baby Boomers, whose medical needs will grow sharply as they enter senior citizenry, are retiring en masse. By 2030, 20% of Americans will be aged 65 and older, compared with just 13% in 2010, reports the Census Bureau.
Unfortunately, this shortage results in long working hours, higher on-the-job demands, and increased stress levels for nurses. In fact, more than 17% of nurses leave their jobs within the first year, and over a third within two, according to MedScape. However, those rates are much lower for hospitals, likely because the majority of nurses view them as the most desirable places to work.
Regardless of where they end up, nurses tend to carry more than their fair share of the load — literally. Nurses often lift patients manually, and as a result, suffer more back injuries (and other musculoskeletal problems) than any other profession — three times more than construction workers, according to NPR. While some hospitals have dramatically reduced such injuries with “safe handling” techniques, it remains a serious problem.
Balancing the Weight
At the same time, there are numerous benefits associated with nursing. For one, high demand means that prospects for employment are exceedingly bright — the median annual salary is $67K with high growth upsides. Plus, it’s not only one of the world’s happiest jobs, but also one of the most deeply rewarding and dynamically challenging. Plus, nurses are perceived as more trustworthy, competent, and emotionally warm than people in any other profession.
Nurses may be chronically underappreciated for their efforts, which makes it all the more important for us to take a moment to acknowledge all that they do. This National Nurses Day, thank a nurse for his or her hard work and dedication throughout the year.