Since Its inception in the19th century, the nursing profession has always been faced with challenges. At the time of its inception, the profession faced challenges such as inconsistent quality of care and gender segregation in the field due to the stereotype that nursing was women’s work. Today, the nursing profession has evolved but the profession still faces some challenges. In this section, some of these challenges and their solutions will be discussed.
One of the challenges that have been facing the nursing profession since its inception is the shortage of nurses. There are over 3.9 million nurses in the United States and they still are not enough. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 11 million more nurses are required to join the profession to prevent further shortages (Haddad, Annamaraju, & Toney-Butler, 2020). The shortage of nurses results in poor delivery of care as the existing workforce is strained. It is also impossible to improve health care with a strained workforce. There are several reasons why the nursing profession is facing shortages. The first reason is the aging population. Currently, the number of people aged above the age of 65 is at the highest it has ever been. People are living longer than they used to due to various health advancements. However, the number of long-term illnesses that affect older persons is still high. Treating these illnesses is straining the workforce. Another reason why there are shortages is the aging workforce. In the United States today, over a million the registered nurses are aged 50 years and above, and not enough nurses are enrolling for training (Haddad, Annamaraju, & Toney-Butler, 2020). Another reason why the profession faces shortages are the inequitable distribution of the workforce. Some places in the United States have surplus nurses while others struggle to provide basic care due to lack of enough nurses.
The other challenge that nurses face is bullying and harassment both from patients and fellow medical professionals. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), bullying is defined as “repeated, unwanted harmful actions intended to humiliate, offend and cause distress in the recipient” (Colduvell, 2017). Most nurses have undergone some form of bullying at one point in their careers. Based on a study, 71% of nurses have been harassed by a patient or their family. Research also shows, “60% of new nurses leave their first position within six months due to some form of verbal abuse or harsh treatment from a colleague” (Colduvell, 2017). Some veteran nurses tend to be impatient with new nurses and as a result, treat them harshly.
The next challenge to be discussed is ethical. Nurses are expected to uphold the moral values associated with the nursing profession. However, this does not mean that nurses always have an easy time making decisions. This is due to the morally complex choices and pressures that come with the profession (Ulrich et, al., 2010). One ethical dilemma that nurses face in their profession has to do with non-compliant patients. Different people have different beliefs. Sometimes these beliefs get in the way of a patient receiving treatment. Some individuals refuse to accept treatment despite the likely consequences due to their beliefs. As a result, nurses are put in a tough ethical position as they know the patient needs treatment but again based on the ANA’s nursing code, nurses should respect their patient’s religious beliefs (McGhee, 2019). Such dilemmas make the nursing profession quite challenging.
As already mentioned, some of the causes of nursing shortage are an aging workforce and population. More nurses are needed to join the workforce to be able to handle the increase in the aging population. However, the enrolment of nurses is limited. There is a shortage of nursing schools and faculty to deliver nursing education. One solution that can help fix this is having the aging nurses who can no longer handle the physicality of the job teach and educate new nurses. Another solution is policies need to be developed to ensure there are adequate workforce planning and allocation (Buchan & Aiken, 2008). Such policies will help deal with poor recruitment and ineffective use of available nursing resources.
Bulling and harassment are some of the challenges nurses experience when providing. Institutions need to have clear policies that provide guidelines on how bullying and harassment cases should be dealt with. For example, there should be a zero-tolerance policy for bullies. The policy should include clear definitions of acts that are considered as harassment or bullying actions and the consequences associated with them (Edmonson, 2019). The policy should also contain guidelines on how to address bullying problems as they happen not based on an accusatory manner. There should be a systematic way to deal with bullying cases. Hospitals should also have onboarding programs to make new nurses feel welcome.
Finally, the other challenge discussed above is the ethical dilemma nurses face in the course of their careers. Dealing with ethical dilemmas is hard. Work experience helps deal with them. The more experience a nurse has the easier it is for them to deal with non-compliant patients as they are more likely to have experienced a similar situation compared to new nurses. Experienced nurses should also guide new nurses whenever they encounter such ethical dilemmas. It is also important for nurses to establish professional boundaries as they help when dealing with ethical dilemmas. Finally, nurses should ensure they review the ANA Code of Ethics whenever they struggle with a tough ethical decision.
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