Letter to the Editor by Chase on The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different?

The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different?

April 4, 2008

response by Amanda E. Chase to the topic 'The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different?' (January 31, 2001)

Dear Editor,

I am responding to the OJIN Nursing Shortage Topic, addressing specifically hospital leaders, and encouraging them to take a proactive approach to the projected shortage of registered nurses expected in the next decade. I recommend that instead of continuing to hire temporary nurses, hospitals put their resources into valuing and supporting the nursing students currently doing clinical rotations within their agency.

One of the reasons nursing schools are unable to increase their enrollments in order to meet the current and future demand for more nurses is their inability to secure clinical placement sites. In order to produce well-prepared nurses, undergraduate institutions need access to the proper resources, including adequate time in clinical agencies offering positive learning experiences. The clinical experience is one of the most important aspects of nursing students' undergraduate education. It allows students to take the theory they have learned in the classroom and apply it to real life situations. Early clinical experiences can literally make or break students' opinions of the nursing profession and influence their decision as to whether they want to continue preparing to join this profession.      

Yet, schools continue to have trouble convincing hospitals to host groups of clinical students.  I speculate that this difficulty may have something to do with the current nursing shortage. Hospitals may be afraid that the nurses' already busy day will only be further impeded by the addition of nursing students. In all of my experiences, however, the nurses have been grateful for the help students provide as they take over some of the nurses' work of providing basic daily care to the nurses' patients. 

Additionally, many students, including myself, have been disappointed in the lack of assistance we have received from traveler nurses. These nurses are usually more concerned with orienting themselves to a unit than helping a student do the same; and they often refuse to precept nursing students because precepting students isn't in their contract. I believe this short term nursing shortage fix of traveler nurses is, in the long run, a deterrent for long term employment of student nurses upon their graduation.

Hosting clinical students in a supportive manner can be a great way for hospitals to recruit future nurses. In an informal survey of my fellow senior nursing students, I found that 40% of the students said that a positive clinical experience in a specific agency increased their desire to work in that agency. All of these students also indicated that it was the nurses they worked with who were most persuasive in making them want to work as nurses at a given hospital. Competent and supportive staff nurses will strengthen a hospital's efforts in recruiting new graduates.

Increasing the number of hospitals that are supporting positive clinical experiences will both help alleviate the overall nursing shortage by allowing more students to enter the field of nursing and will also help hospitals directly by eliminating their need for hiring expensive traveler nurses and implementing costly recruitment programs.

Amanda E. Chase
Senior Nursing Student

Washington, D.C.