How to Address the International Nursing Shortage
Even before the pandemic hit, nurses were in short supply across the globe. Shortages can be attributed to two major reasons: poor workforce planning and an absence of policies that work to attract, retain, and sustain a nursing workforce. At a national level, nursing workforce data has often been based on historical information rather than projections — an issue compounded by Covid-19.
The pandemic has elevated the nursing profession to new heights of public respect, but it has emphasised global shortages while concurrently highlighting the need for new workforce strategies.
Nurses have been lauded as heroes throughout the pandemic, but salaries have not risen in line with growing global recognition. In Europe, nurses are paid on average £1,100 to £1,300 pre-tax per month. After tax, their salaries are barely clearing £844. Coupled with taxing work and long hours, not to mention the added strain from Covid care, this compensation is barely enough for nurses to make ends meet.
The lack of financial reward for nurses is contronuting to burnout, a feeling of dissatisfaction, and causes some to leave the profession entirely. It’s true that it is a noble profession, but these healthcare professionals also have individual needs that need to be met.
Remote Healthcare Education
Since the pandemic began, the demand for nurses skyrocketed, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics stating that the country needs an additional 11 million nursing professionals.. To meet this staggering demand, employers are increasingly turning to remote digital tools to facilitate learning. For young American students looking to get nursing degrees, there are now several online RN courses that offer hybrid learning. These undergraduate students are given the opportunity to take online theory classes, while fulfilling their mandatory clinical hours. On the other hand, registered nurses already in the field can upskill through online RN to BSN programs, which prepare them to take on more leadership roles. These programs are well suited for practicing U.S. nurses as all the lessons are offered online, meaning that they can do coursework in their own time and without having to take time off work. Remote education is happening across the world, with many universities here in the UK offering the same for domestic and EU nurses. This gives more people access to nursing courses and programs, and therefore produces more skilled nurses in the process. Invest in the Nursing Profession
Addressing the nursing shortage will need a lot of government and institutional investment— there’s only so much aspiring nurses can do on their own. A great example of this is the UK government’s four-year nursing apprenticeship scheme worth £172 million, which seeks to allow nursing students to earn as they learn. Investments like this make joining the workforce more appealing to healthcare hopefuls. In addition to these efforts, there should also be changes in global health policy that strengthen current and future nurse leadership. Legislative steps could elevate their role in the healthcare sector, and give them a bigger voice in decision making in healthcare and social care systems— a move that could prove detrimental should we face another major health crisis. Nurses have served as frontline care providers every time a crisis happens, whether that be a war or pandemic, as such, they should be given proper compensation and support. Moreover, they’ve taken on the role of public health leaders amidst Covid-19. They’ve been crucial to the global pandemic response, and we’d be nowhere without them.
We simply can’t weather another pandemic with this continuing shortage of nurses and healthcare professionals.
Guest post by Luna Silva for publicpolicyprojects.com