National poll shows most Americans are worried about nursing shortage
Vanderbilt University study provides key insights on perceptions and fears
Americans are intensely aware of the national nursing shortage and believe it is a serious problem, according to a national poll released by the Vanderbilt University Medical Center's School of Nursing and Center for Health Services Research in Nashville, Tenn.
The poll confirms that a vast majority of Americans are concerned about the impact the nursing shortage may have on their personal health and quality of patient care in the United States. It also confirms that Americans overwhelmingly trust, respect and admire nurses and would encourage relatives and friends to consider a career in nursing. However, a general lack of knowledge of the nursing profession and the opportunities it offers remains a significant barrier to nursing recruitment efforts.
"We found three in four Americans believe the nursing shortage is a serious health care problem, and people believe it will negatively impact the quality of care they get in the nation's hospitals," said Dr. Peter Buerhaus, associate dean of nursing at Vanderbilt, Sigma Theta Tau International board member and a leading researcher on the nursing shortage.
The study shows that:
81 percent of Americans recognize that there is a nursing shortage and 65 percent believe the shortage is either a major problem or a crisis.
93 percent agree (80 percent strongly agree) that the nursing shortage jeopardizes the quality of health care in the United States. Seniors, aged 55 and older, are particularly sensitive to the shortage's impact on the quality of the health care system.
75 percent are concerned that the nursing shortage could impact their individual health care, and 65 percent of younger Americans (aged 18 to 34) experience anxiety over the shortage.
Other key findings of the survey include:
95 percent of Americans find nurses' opinions on health matters to be credible and overwhelmingly trust, respect and admire nurses.
97 percent view nurses and the nursing profession favorably (76 percent very favorably), and 91 percent say nurses play a critical role in the health care system.
Although 83 percent of Americans, including 78 percent of men, would encourage a loved one to enter the nursing profession, only 21 percent would consider nursing as a career for themselves.
Only one male in 10 would consider nursing as a career.
91 percent said they would view it positively (74 percent very positively) if a family member or close friend told them they were considering a nursing career.
The care that nurses offer patients is the main reason Americans have considered a career in nursing. Thirty-four percent of those who have considered nursing as a career say the primary reason is because nurses care about people and want to help others.
Most Americans are unaware that nursing offers career opportunities outside patient care - such as research or hospital management. Many Americans have only a cursory knowledge of the differences among types of nursing professionals, such as licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and nurse practitioners. In addition, Americans much more strongly associate nurses with engaging in activities providing care, such as critical end-of-life care (74 percent), than they do with functions such as working in laboratories (35 percent), conducting research (32 percent), and writing and revising hospital and clinic policies (30 percent).
Most Americans have little or no idea about how much money nurses earn, and there is little recognition that nursing salaries are competitive with those of other professions.
According to the researchers, interest in nursing will likely increase significantly once the American public is made aware of the opportunities the profession offers. Already 21 percent say that they have at least once considered a career in nursing.
"The biggest problem is that people are unaware of the array of opportunities and rewards in nursing today," Buerhaus said. "They are unaware that nursing salaries are very competitive with other professions or that nursing offers career opportunities in health research, hospital management, and family and community health care, in addition to traditional patient care. We need to get these messages out to parents, teachers, counselors and, above all, students at all levels."
Commissioned by Johnson & Johnson, the nationwide poll was conducted with telephone interviews with 1,005 Americans aged 21 and older. Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, Inc. of Washington, D.C., conducted the poll.
This article was provided by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.