Updated: Jun 20
There is a perfect storm brewing that will cause a significant nursing shortage in the next decade or two. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), the nursing profession will see the highest work shortage compared to all other occupations by 2022.
Although satisfying work, nursing is also a grueling and challenging job with long hours. In the past decade, hospitals have struggled with the recruitment and retention of nurses. Add to that the cost of becoming a registered nurse, often a four-year investment for a Registered Nurse with a Bachelor's Degree, and finding bright and willing candidates can be a problem. The existing nursing workforce is aging. About half a million experienced Registered Nurses will have retired by 2022, leaving hundreds of thousands of nursing positions to fill.
This exodus of retiring nurses will occur at the same time the rest of the U.S. population ages. By 2045, the United States will see a seventy-percent increase in adults over 65 who need medical interventions, mostly in long-term care. This aging population will be living longer, thanks to medical advances and quality care. However, a larger population of over 65 means more need for long-term care -- which calls for 24/7 nursing presence. Also, more affordable health benefits and growing public health programs add to the need for nurses.
The U.S. will need to train 1.1 million RNs to prevent a severe nursing shortage. Nursing is one of the fastest-growing careers in the U.S., yet the growth is still not enough to satisfy what's needed.
How Certified Nurses Assistants Help Alleviate the Shortage
Due to the nursing shortage, the demand for the positions that help nurses also sees tremendous growth. Nurses have to increasingly rely on their team members to help work efficiently and keep patients safe. The Certified Nurses Assistant (CNA) is a vital member of a nurse's team and operates the most closely with a nurse during a shift. Because of the current nursing shortage, the CNA's role has found a renewed significance within the medical profession. The following are various ways CNA's positively impact medical care and help nurses.
Be A Nurse’s Eyes and Ears
In most healthcare facilities, the nurse is often a CNA's supervisor. Especially in shortage conditions, the nurse relies on the CNA to alert them to any problems or concerns occurring with a patient. CNAs are typically in a patient's room more often than a nurse is and can engage them in conversation while they work. Through this communication, a patient might voice their needs to a CNA, who can then report it to their nurse.
Many facilities often try to help nurses with a shortage by providing them with more CNAs to work with. Although a nurse's patient load may be larger, nurses may have more help in the form of CNAs. However, nurses may not be as available to talk with patients as often as they would like because they have a higher patient load. This is where a CNA comes in and assists nurses to engage the patients and ask how they are doing.
Assist with Activities of Daily Living
A bulk of a CNA's work duties is to help patients with their necessary living activities, like bathing and feeding. Especially in long-term care facilities, patients often need help toileting and getting dressed. Bedridden patients also need to be turned and transferred to avoid bed sores and help with circulation. For some patients, two people may be required to complete these tasks safely. In these cases, the nurse and CNA work as a team to help keep a patient's activities of daily living performed.
Help Measure and Record Patient Information
Any nurse will tell you that a CNA’s role in measuring and recording is essential to patient care. CNAs will often take vital signs, like temperatures and blood pressures, as a way to help monitor and care for a patient. This information is documented and reviewed by the nurse. Any significant changes are reported to the nurse right away by the CNA. Because a nurse can’t be everywhere at once, the nurse counts on the CNA to deliver this crucial information.
The nurse, along with the rest of the healthcare team, uses the CNA's information to make further medical decisions in a patient's treatment plan. Many insurance companies also count on the medical team's documentation to make determinations regarding insurance payments. A CNA's documentation can make all the difference because of how necessary documentation is to patient treatment planning.
Addressing Patient Requests
When patients are bedridden, they’re often unable to do activities on their own. They might need someone’s help to perform simple tasks like turning up the volume on their television or adjusting their pillows. They might need ice chips for their dry mouth or socks for cold feet. The CNA is often there to help tuck in a blanket or close the curtains for the night.
When there's a shortage of nurses, the CNA is often the one that the patients turn to for help. Having that extra assistance from a CNA meets the patient's needs and helps the nurse a lot, too!
An Important Piece of the Puzzle
Because of the nursing shortage, there will be a guaranteed need for CNAs for years to come. Many CNAs also go on to work in other professions in the healthcare field. They may choose to work as a respiratory therapist, dietician, or many other careers in the healthcare field.
When it comes to recruitment for nursing, work as a CNA is an ideal stepping stone to the nursing profession. People who have worked as a CNA have a birds-eye view of the scope and workload a nurse is responsible for. Should they decide later, a CNA is a great candidate to fill the nursing shortage as a future nurse!