COVID will continue to highlight the nursing shortage in the United States in 2022 and the impending ‘silver tsunami’

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There were 4.3 million births in the United States in 1957, the peak year of the baby boom. On January 1, 2022, this multitude will begin to turn 65, for the most part still a psychological step on their way to retirement.

As the Great Resignation continues to garner attention these days, at least some alarm is raised regarding the looming effects of the “Great Retirement” on all kinds of industries and professions. Few will be more impacted, to the detriment of more Americans, than nursing.

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Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, many players in the healthcare industry were actively concerned about a continuing global shortage of nurses. Long hours and short staff during the country’s long COVID response and recovery have only made the problem worse, with recent studies documenting extreme exhaustion, physical discomfort and emotional distress among already stressed nurses. And yet, often inspired by images of nurses valiantly serving on the front lines of the pandemic, a large and growing number of new hires are applying to nursing programs nationwide. We should be concerned that there will not be enough teachers there to accommodate them when they arrive.

FILE – Syringes filled with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is shown, Thursday, May 13, 2021, at a mobile vaccination site at Grand Bethel Church in Miami. ((AP Photo / Wilfredo Lee) / AP Newsroom)

Last year, according to data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), more than 80,000 qualified applicants were not accepted into nursing schools, largely due to a shortage of faculty. , clinical sites and other support resources.

The total included more than 66,000 absent from entry baccalaureate programs, although the most worrying for AACN were the 12,871 applications refused to graduate programs, which will only further limit the future pool of students. potential nursing teachers.

We see these two phenomena up close from our window facing east-central Pennsylvania, where there has been significant growth in Moravian University’s accelerated BSN and nurse practitioner programs, although we are currently looking to to fill six faculty positions resulting mainly from recent retirements.

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In this post-industrial segment of the United States, America’s aging is also more evident, perhaps, than other regions. Although the gray wave or the so-called silver tsunami is soon to sweep across the country, people aged 65 and over are expected to almost double, from 52 million in 2018 to around 95 million by 2060. In the half that time or around 2034, says the US Census Bureau, older people outnumber children (under 18) for the first time in the country’s history.

Diane White Husic, Ph.D., is Dean of the School of Natural and Health Sciences at Moravian University in Bethlehem, Penn. (Moravian University)

With the aging of the population comes naturally an increasing need for health care, long-term care and social services to support older people as they age. And so, the negative feedback loop that is less available-faculty-to-nurse-to-train-future-faculty-to-nurse-keeps nursing enrollments depressed creates another crisis loop involving an increasingly older population exercising. ever-increasing pressure on an already overburdened system due to the inability to provide education and opportunity to a sufficient number of capable and deserving students.

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Increasing support for nursing faculty is a vital first step in attempting to interrupt these two cycles. Educators in the field must have advanced degrees, but typically earn only half that of nurses working in a hospital.

The pandemic has intensified these financial strains as many nursing programs have been forced to cut budgets and limit or cut wages, forcing many educators to seek more lucrative work. Adding to the urgency, the expected national faculty retirements by 2025 represent about a third of all nursing professors in place just 10 years earlier, in 2015.

We can also continue to say “Thank you” and “We need you” to professionals engaged in what Americans have long considered the most honorable profession.

For nearly two decades, nurses have dominated the results of the annual Gallup poll for public perceptions of honesty and high ethical standards; struggling with COVID-19, I think you have to add courage and determination. Their example and their needs deserve our action.

Diane White Husic, Ph.D., is Dean of the School of Natural and Health Sciences at Moravian University in Bethlehem, Penn.


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