What Led To The Shortage
During the world wars there was a tremendous nurse shortage, and to make up for this, institutions were built for nurses to be trained for battle and for the health care of soldiers in combat situations. After the war, most of these nurses were taken up into private institutions and hospitals, but most of them had to seek other employment.
The supply of LPNs has grown, so the supply of students and candidates are not at fault for the LPN shortage, but the need has grown over the past few decades because the entire nursing structures in hospitals and other health care facilities were changed drastically. This means that even though many LPNs entered the health care sector, many other nurses were forced to leave. With fewer experienced hands to do the job and to oversee the new recruits it has become very apparent that the shortage has placed a burden on an already overworked health care system.
Another apparent reason for the shortages that have been steadily increasing is the fact that more patients are entering hospitals and health care facilities and they are demanding more complex care because of the nature of their health problems. With more complex problems come more attentive care and the RNs need the assistance of an adequate amount of LPNs to give basic care and only call in the backup when necessary.
What was Done About it?
The Department of Health has noticed the nurse shortage and has done everything possible to make sure that the students that are being certified as LPNs have the best training available in the shortest amount of time. The pay packages of LPNs are also attractive enough to encourage this field of work as a desirable one.
More facilities have sprung up in the past few decades which meant that is it so much easier for a student to get a job once they have graduated from nursing school. Yet despite the government and the private health sector’s best efforts in getting nurses trained for the field, the pressure is still increasing to get more nurses on board.
There are many different ways for a person to study to become an LPN and there are many grants available as well. This tactic has worked in the sense that the intake of LPNs has increased in the past few years, although it is still doubtful whether it will be enough to make up for all of the nurses who are leaving the occupation for various reasons which includes pension.
Will This Shortage Last?
It is believed that the LPN shortage will not only last, but with the baby boomers coming of the age where they will need increased medical care, the situation may become worse. With fewer nurses on staff to deal with the influx of frail care patients, the stress will become unbearable and those that have made it through all of the trials of becoming qualified and certified, may not be able to handle the pressure which will open up even bigger gaps in the market. The test will be whether these gaps will be filled quickly enough with temporary and full-time staff and if better opportunities will be available for the nursing staff of the future that will make them want to stay.
Something has to be done about the shortage and about the way nurses perceive themselves and their role in the health care system.
What is the Current Status?
Currently there are a lot of LPNs that are trained, qualified and busy training for the role within the nursing structure, but not all of them are actively using these skills. A great amount of LPNs are only working part-time due to budget restraints on the hospital’s behalf or because of lack of interest in a full-time nursing career.
The amount of LPNs that are being trained and schooled are increasing and it may seem positive, but the proof of the industry’s success will be to see if these LPNs will be able to fulfill the roles they have been trained to do and if they will be able to fill the gaps fast enough within an already overburdened nursing structure. LPNs should also be allowed to perform the procedures that they have been trained to perform so that they may deliver a full scale of comprehensive care to help the RNs cope with their responsibilities and so that the patients can get the best quality of care.
How Does this Shortage Influence the Quality of Nurses?
The LPN shortage puts tremendous stress on the education system as well. Not only do they have to give these candidates the best tutoring and educational knowledge as possible, but they have to do it in a limited time and the sizes of the classes are increasing which limits the possibility of one on one attention for students that may need the extra attention.
With so many nurses joining the nursing schools, the boarding houses are overflowing and many nurses are doing their courses online or travel from home every day to go to school. This way of educating and learning breaks down the team spirit and the chance of nurses to learn things from each other. While the nurses in the boarding houses have the opportunity to work together and practice their manual skills, those who are off campus do not have that same advantage.
Teachers are under immense pressure to prepare these LPNs for the job they are about to do and so that they will be able to make the right decisions and to save lives, but at the same time they need to rush through it and save on costs while they do so.
This method of teaching means that even though we are sending a mass of LPNs into the working sector, they are not confident in what they are doing and quite often they place more stress on the supervisors and the RNs because they are not sure of themselves and they may not last very long because of the stresses and pressures that their duties demand of them.
To help the students cope with the amount of work they have to go through in such a short space of time, many teachers have come up with innovative ways to supplement the practical placement with simulations. These simulations help the students to take what they have learned from the books and use it in a real situation.
Striking a Balance
With the pressure from Government to supply the amount of nurses to meet the LPN shortage and to make up for the future need of these individuals, it becomes hard to stretch all of the resources between the sheer amount of students attending and helping them to make a success out of the experience.
A definite balance needs to be obtained between getting in the amount of nurses and giving them all of the tools to do their jobs to the best of their ability and with confidence. Getting the right kind of candidate is also a challenge with which hospitals are faced because of the nature of the work environment. Nurses that are taken up into the system are taken purely because they are needed and not because they have what it takes to make a difference in the health care sector. With the mass hiring that is taking place it is hard to retain staff because the attitude of new recruits may not be suited to their rank or their personalities are just not fitting in well with other staff and the patients.
Another balance that needs to be struck is between getting the numbers up and getting people who actually want to be there and sees it as an honor and a duty to perform their work each day.
Finding the Right Job
There are many opportunities that are available to LPN students thanks to the LPN shortage, but many are fighting to get into hospitals because that may be where the excitement and the desired pay packages are situated. At the end of graduation a recruit should be given the choice of going to work in a hospital or another medical facility such as a mental institution or a frail care home. There are so many opportunities available and so many other options other than the hospital and these are not explored very often.
Finding a job is one thing, but being content enough with your work situation to make a career out of your job is really what determines a nurse’s success.
One of the biggest solutions to bridging the gap that is currently widening would be to create an environment in which these nurses can flourish and prove their worth. Nurses should be able to show their skills and use the skills that they are taught at school so that they do not feel like they have wasted precious time and money learning something that they will never use.