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A new report says Pennsylvania’s shortage of registered nurses will get worse before it gets better, and there is every reason to believe that the rest of the country is in the same boat.
The report was issued recently by The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP). "Pennsylvania Nurses: Meeting the Demand for Nursing Care in the 21st Century" synthesizes different types of data about the nursing work force, nursing school enrollments/graduations, patient demographics, and health care financing, into a comprehensive look at the demand for, and supply of, registered nurses over the next two decades. Carolyn F. Scanlan, president and CEO of HAP, says the conclusions of the report reach beyond Pennsylvania’s borders.
"This report clearly delineates the dilemma facing not just health care providers, but all people who use the health care system," she says. "All of the demographic trends are going in the wrong direction, and these trends now appear to be long-term rather than cyclical. The nursing shortage is a result of many factors, including declining enrollments in — and graduations from — nursing schools, an existing work force that is aging, and an older and sicker patient population."
In Pennsylvania, Scanlan says the shortage is complicated by the shaky financial condition of Pennsylvania’s hospitals and a broader range of job opportunities for all workers. Scanlan says the shortage will result in an increase in hospital diversions, limits on nursing home admissions, cancellations of scheduled elective services and procedures, delays in treatment, and increases in the costs of care.
"With current trends projecting a nationwide shortage of more than 400,000 nurses by the year 2020, we are writing a prescription for disaster," Scanlan says. "The problem is real. The problem is serious. But we can, and must, act now to solve this problem and assure the current and future availability of health care for all Pennsylvanians."
The report reviews and analyzes data from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the state Board of Nursing, and HAP’s own surveys. To address nursing shortages, these are some of the measures that HAP recommends: