You’ve most likely heard that there’s a looming nursing shortage about to hit the United States. It’s certainly true that the US will need another 600,000 nurses in the next five years, and while many prospective nurses have heard the call and enlisted in nursing schools, most schools are completely full. This isn’t just a problem that at-home healthcare agencies like Tendercare are experiencing; it hits every aspect of America’s healthcare system from larger hospitals all the way down to family practitioners.
Why is this nursing shortage occur? Did the nurses all just up and disappear overnight? While that would certainly make a good post-apocalyptic movie, that’s not what happened. As it turns out we’ve reached the perfect storm of nursing thanks to four very specific causes.
An Aging Population
As healthcare gets better and better, people are living longer. A senior living in 2017 can expect to live about 20 years longer than one living in 1930. Today there are approximately 42 million senior citizens in the United States, which means more and more nurses are required to care for them over a longer amount of time.
Oh, and it’s not just healthcare that has lead to such a large amount of senior citizens. Baby boomers, that generation that started when militarymen returned from World War II, have already reached 70. While many are living active lifestyles, that doesn’t mean they are immune to the maladies that affect older people.
People are living longer. That’s great! But living longer brings with it…
The Chronic Diseases
As people live longer, they’re fighting and beating more diseases. Someone might have succumbed to cancer in middle age if they lived in the 1940s, meaning that they wouldn’t have needed any more healthcare. But that same person living today might have beat cancer two times in their 40s and 50s, and then they need treatment for heart disease and diabetes in their 60s. People living longer means the need for more healthcare per person, whether it’s hospital stays or at-home care.
Of course, it’s not just the elderly who are at risk of chronic diseases. Those who used to succumb to a disease in their 40s are living well past that age thanks to medical advancements, but that means that they could be living with it and its treatments for another 40 years. They’ll be heading to the doctor more often, and every visit will include an interaction with a nurse.
The Affordable Care Act
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more people than ever are able to afford health insurance. This will lead to a healthier population that can focus on being productive instead of battling debilitating diseases without the help of a doctor. Of course, with all of those people able to get health care now, the need for nurses is also up at every level.
The Aging Nurses
The country probably waited a bit too long before sounding the alarm on the nursing shortage. We should have seen it coming, considering that the average age of nurses is getting higher and higher. The typical age of nurses today is 50 years old. While that’s good because it means more nurses have more experience, it’s bad because a greater number of nurses are approaching retirement age.
You might be asking, “how will all of this affect home healthcare?” It’s really too soon to know. Some care might actually get better as seasoned nurses are convinced to put off retirement for a few more years. Some might be convinced because of increased salaries, others because of their love of helping patients. All we know is that we’ll continue to hire the best in-home nurses available to send to those needing home care all across the country.
We’d love to talk with you about your need for at-home care. Contact us today with any questions have.