Nurses play important roles in helping to shape the healthcare system. They make up the largest group of healthcare professionals worldwide. Alongside doctors, nurses help to provide care, support and treatment for patients. But they can only do so much before feeling burned out.
Nurses in Florida have been struggling with grueling shifts, pressure and difficult working conditions. The pandemic amplified these issues and many decided to quit. According to the Florida Nurse Workforce Projections Report, the state will be short of 59,100 nurses by 2035.
In the same vein, primary care doctors are also in short supply in Florida. According to Jacksonville University, Florida ranks last in the nation for access to primary care physicians. The HRSA also estimates Florida is short of 1,636 primary care physicians and will have 3,060 less by 2025.
What has led to the shortage of primary care doctors and nurses?
Florida’s healthcare system has been in crisis long before the COVID-19 pandemic. The nursing workforce hasn’t been enough and is expected to worsen in a decade and half. As the state’s population continues to grow, the demand for health care workers will also increase.
The Florida Hospital Association and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida commissioned a report which says that shortages of healthcare professionals should be dealt with as a crisis for Florida’s health care system. More physicians and nurses are leaving the profession than those who are entering.
The shortage of medical doctors raises so much concern. There’s a threshold of 3,500 people to one provider. It also appears that Florida’s physicians are aging and are set to retire in the next few years. And there are not enough residency training positions for medical students.
There are over 21 million residents in Florida. But the Florida Department of Health says that only 54,677 physicians were actively involved in patient care in the year 2020. This shows the mismatch between the state’s rapidly growing population and the number of practicing medical providers.
Nurses are also leaving the profession in droves and they won’t be easily replaced. Registered Nursing says Florida has the highest nursing shortage in the United States. The pandemic exacerbated the crisis in the nursing workforce and forced many nurses to leave their jobs.
What can be done to avoid a healthcare crisis?
The Association of American Medical Colleges published a report which says the U.S. will be short of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033. There are two factors driving the shortages: the older population is growing and more physicians are reaching the retirement age.
As a general rule, elderly people need more healthcare than any other age group. But stress and burnout will only make physicians retire earlier than expected. Below are certain steps to be taken to avoid a healthcare crisis in the future.
● Improve working conditions
Healthcare professionals perform so much activity daily but receive very little mental health support. Caring for the health and wellbeing of numerous patients can be very exhausting. Healthcare organizations should not overwork nurses but allow them to take regular breaks.
The nursing shortage would be fixed when the system decides to favor nurses and improve their working conditions. This includes changes like flexible schedules, better salaries, and adequate nurse staffing. When the present nurse workforce is fulfilled, more people will be excited to join.
● Provide more financial aid to students
There’s a limited number of financial assistance for medical students. They rely on grants, scholarships, fellowships and assistantship positions but these are not always available. So colleges, states and FAFSA should offer loans and grants to more medical students.
Nursing students need more federal grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans. The state should also provide specific aid programs to help them pay for tuition. More hospitals and other healthcare organizations should offer tuition reimbursement to nurses.
● Allow nurse practitioners to practice independently
To ease the load of primary care doctors, the state has passed a bill that allows Nurse Practitioners to work independently in Florida. This would encourage more nurses to further their education and improve their skills. Registered Nurses with BSNs could enroll in an online MSN fnp program. They would be able to issue prescriptions, provide general family medicine, pediatrics and general internal medicine when there’s no physician present. Family nurse practitioner online programs would help nurses improve their working and earning potentials in the workplace.
● Increase funding to establish more residency training programs
Medical residency is postgraduate training for students who just earned their Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. It helps to advance their clinical and leadership skills and allows them to treat real illnesses. They would diagnose, manage and treat various health conditions.
However, it seems that there is a shortage of residency training positions in the United States. As more students continue to enroll in medical schools, the state and federal governments should increase funding to establish more residency training programs.