Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, there have been growing concerns about maintaining appropriate staffing levels in hospitals and other healthcare facilities to ensure appropriate patient care. As more virulent variants of the virus multiply, nurses, in particular, have proven difficult to attract and retain. This endangered the stability of the entire American healthcare system.
Faced with the lack of nursing staff, hospitals have been forced to reduce the number of available beds, in particular by closing entire wings. Emergency rooms are overcrowded as there are no beds available in hospitals to transfer patients who need additional care and states with particularly severe infections have resorted to the National Guard to help hospitals struggling with staff shortages. In short, the health sector is trying to cope with unprecedented difficult conditions.
In the context of this public health crisis, some trade unions, including some nurses unions, are taking measures that could aggravate this crisis. The largest nursing union in the United States, for example, National Nurses United (NNU), refuses to recognize that there is even a shortage of nurses. They have staged protests in hospitals and stoked discontent across the country in recent months, demanding better hours and better wages.
While no one disputes that nurses should be compensated fairly for their work, the continued pressure from these efforts could jeopardize the viability of our healthcare facilities as well as patient safety. The reality is that protest hospitals will not help solve these unprecedented problems. The facts also do not support the union’s allegations.
Government data revealed that the need for registered nurses is expected to increase by 12% from 2018 to 2028, compared to an average of 7% across all occupations. A shrinking supply of nurses and those choosing to make a career transition have raised serious concerns that there will not be enough nurses to meet all future demand. Despite this difficult time, however, hospitals have stepped up efforts to attract and retain needed nurses by continuing to raise salaries and offering signing bonuses, more flexible hours, and additional benefits.
Although NNU claims that the salary its members receive is insufficient, salary increases for nurses have far exceeded those of most other professions and the job security provided by this in-demand profession will continue to increase.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual salary of $ 75,330 for nurses in 2020, with an annual increase of 3.9%, one of the highest annual increases in a profession. Nurses with advanced degrees, such as nurse practitioners, earn even more. According to the BLS, the median salary for nurse practitioners is $ 114,510.
These salary figures, which do not include bonuses, benefits and other income increases, show how competitive salaries have become in this area.
Working conditions were also a hot topic. While it is undeniable that healthcare workers are suffering from unprecedented exhaustion, healthcare facilities are doing everything possible to meet the needs of their staff. Hospitals continue to strive to provide nurses with a work-life balance by offering flexible working hours, and US News & World Report consistently ranks several nursing professions among the nation’s top 100 jobs. Despite arguments to the contrary, nurses find great satisfaction in their profession. An American Nurse Journal survey found that 85% of nurses said they would become nurses again even if they battled the pandemic.
Nurses are a vital part of our country’s medical system, and national surveys show that the public views nursing as one of the most trusted and respected professions. They deserve our honor and respect every day, and especially in these difficult times.
But given the pressure our healthcare system faces to treat COVID-19 patients who need extended hospital care, unions representing these healthcare heroes should find ways to better serve their members. Working with hospitals to meet staffing needs, instead of disrupting hospitals with picket lines and protests, would be a good start, as these will not improve outcomes for patients or clinic workers. health. Ending this pandemic once and for all will be a constant effort, but we can overcome this obstacle if we work together.
Vickie Yates Brown Glisson is the former Cabinet Secretary for Kentucky Health and Family Services and a nationally recognized health lawyer. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.
This article originally appeared on Deming Headlight: It’s Your Turn: Nursing Shortage Threatens America’s Healthcare System