fter 30 years as a nurse in the 8 East Medical Oncology unit at UF Health Shands Hospital, Eyrone Bush has seen it all.
Gone are the days, for instance, of the iconic white uniforms and paper charting systems. There have been tremendous advances in technology and pharmaceuticals. There are more men in the field, bringing greater diversity. Most importantly, she said, nurses now are seen as colleagues in interdisciplinary health care teams.
Still, there are days when she wonders whether she can keep going. At times like this, she reaches for her stash of inspiration.
“I have a file at home and it’s labeled, ‘Why I do what I do,’ ‘’ Bush said. “In those moments when I may feel burnt out or discouraged about something, I flip open my folder. I have hundreds of notes from my patients, and they say: ‘You really made a difference; thanks for making cancer bearable; you really helped my family cope during a difficult time.’
“You can’t describe or replace those things,’’ she said. “Those are things people may not see when they look at a career, but they’re the things that make nurses stay in the profession because those are the rewarding parts of what we do.”
Despite the moments of quiet satisfaction that bring joy to those who answered the call to care for others, it is becoming harder to fill nursing vacancies. Even with nearly 4 million nurses nationwide — the largest segment of health care workers — the United States is experiencing a nursing shortage that is expected to expand over the next 10 years.
More than half of the current nursing workforce is age 50 or older, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, and a July 2017 issue of the Journal of Nursing Regulation reported that nearly 1 million nurses will be retiring in the next 10 years, leading to a significant deficit in the health care landscape.
Ample research has shown that the number of nurses available to provide care has a direct correlation with mortality rates. With a shortage of nurses to provide this unique blend of health and healing, many are concerned for the future of the health care industry. What is contributing to the nursing shortage? How is it impacting the profession and patients? And what’s next for nursing?
“As nurses, we are the coordinators of all,” Bush said. “Between multiple phone calls and multiple alarms, trying to meet patient needs, help our peers, answer questions, participate in interdisciplinary rounds — it’s nonstop. We’ve become the ultimate multitaskers, but the constant demands can also lead to burnout. There’s not enough of us to go around.”