The USA leads the world in the cost of health care spending, so it should have one of the best health care systems in the world, right? Sadly, this is not true. The American health care system is failing at an astonishing rate due to factors such as ridiculously expensive and dysfunctional health insurance plans, over-paid physicians, an unfair pricing system, and wasted funds. A huge 25% of its annual spending is being wasted; according to a study from Humana, this is around $760 billion to $935 billion, which is going on administration costs, failure of care coordination, and many more wasteful aspects. These factors will ultimately become the US health care system’s demise, as average life expectancy has fallen to 78 years in the past three years, whilst the infant mortality rate has risen to 5.8 per 1000 births. These statistics may not sound very shocking when they are viewed in isolation, but compared to other countries, especially in the EU, America’s mortality rate is considerably higher. When you remember that the US is leading the world in health care spending, it becomes clear that the system is massively flawed.
Whilst the US healthcare system is pouring 25% of its funding into wasteful resources, the integral cog in the health care machine is being neglected, mistreated, and hugely underpaid: the nursing staff. Working conditions in the US health care system are rapidly declining, and nurses across Arizona, California, Florida, and Illinois have had enough of the system’s failure not only to them but to their patients.
Why is This Strike Important?
Stating that they’re being forced to work excessively long underpaid shifts and not being able to provide the needed care for their patients, over 6,000 nurses across the four states went on strike, demanding better working conditions. This strike is demonstrative of America’s failing healthcare system as the nurses claim that they were not only protesting for themselves but for their patients, who are receiving less care than they need due to a shortage of staff. Whilst the strike lasted for 24 hours, The University of Chicago Medical Center, a center in which over 2,000 nurses participated in the protest, brought in replacement nurses with a contract of 5 days, meaning that the protesting nurses who wanted better care for their patients were unable to return to work and provide this care for a further 5 days. As the center knew that the strike was to only last 24 hours, the actions of The University of Chicago Medical Center were viewed as a retaliation to the protest and further indicate the neglect and mistreatment that their workers are suffering from.
So, what do the nurses aim to get from this protest?
Nurses not only in these 4 states but throughout the entire country are receiving far less pay than they should be for hours that they are forced to work. This is due to the rapidly increasing number of patients combined with the decrease in actively working nurses. Often having to work hours that have been greatly extended due to the increasing number of patients, the nurses find themselves working extortionately long hours and are often refused pay. This is one of the main factors that produced the strike as today’s society heavily depends on money, and it has been proven that almost a quarter of nurses have had to acquire a second part time job in order to pay their bills and support their families. A large amount of nurses admitted that the long hours that they are being forced to provide unpaid labor for mean that they are too exhausted both physically and mentally to provide the standard of care that their patients both need and deserve. As well as this, if the nurses aren’t earning the money that they need to care for themselves and their loved ones, they will be forced to find work elsewhere. This will not only negatively impact the nurses, because they will have to quickly find new work in order to support their livelihoods, but it will also cause a negative impact on the crisis as the number of nurses further decreases. Inevitably, the remaining nurses will be under even more pressure to care for existing and future patients, further increasing the risk of overworking, unpaid labor, and an even larger health crisis than the US is currently experiencing.
Lower Nurse to Patient Ratios
Nurses across the US are under extreme stress to care for the high number of patients that their hospitals and health care centers are accepting. The high patient to low nurse ratio means that one nurse may be responsible for 3 or possibly even 4 patients at a time. The reason that this is so detrimental to how health care centers are run is that the nurses will not be able to spend a good amount of time with each patient, as they have so many that they must look after. Lack of time spent with each patient will ultimately lead to the quality of healthcare given to the individual patients being lowered, as one nurse has to treat multiple patients. As well as this, the mental, physical, and emotional strain that a high number of patients can have on a single nurse is astonishing. The more tired and stressed that a nurse gets, the lower the quality of care they will be able to give to their patients. In addition to lowering the quality of care, the high patient to low nurse ratio will increase the chances of burnout in many nurses, meaning that it is highly likely that many workers will quit their jobs and increase the current health care crisis. Nurses across the US are protesting for a larger workforce, but they not only worry about themselves but also their patients, and they will do anything that they can to help the crisis that they are trapped within.
Why Aren’t There Enough Nurses in the US?
The shortage of nurses in the US comes from a variety of different factors. One of these is the fact that the American population is aging and living longer, and with older patients comes a larger probability of illness. Whether this be illness by disease or easily broken bones, the chances of this older population getting multiple illness at one time greatly increases the number of nurses and health care professionals needed. As well as this, long term illnesses that once were quickly fatal can now be treated, and patients can live long lives. Whilst this is a wonderful medical feat, the continuous treatment of patients can put a large strain on the small number of available nurses. As the patient list is increasing day by day, there is rarely a decrease in the number of patients that nurses must care for.
In addition to the general population aging, the average age of the nursing work force is also increasing. This is due to multiple factors, but one of the largest is that the younger generation cannot afford to pay the exorbitant price of college fees in order to gain the necessary qualifications needed to work in the health care profession. As a large part of the US nursing workforce is over 50, this ultimately means that a large number of our much-needed nurses will very soon retire, not only leaving patients without the help they need but also leaving nursing students without teachers, again limiting the chances for the younger generation to progress in the health profession.
Sadly, one of the leading causes of the US nursing shortage is the fact that a lot of people enter the nursing profession straight from graduating college and find that the job is not what they believed it would be, whether that be due to being overworked, experiencing patient violence, or being in a lower pay bracket than they initially expected. As well as this, nurses who have been in the profession for a while or even a short while for some suffer from what is called a burnout. A person suffering from a burnout is typically under so much physical and emotional exhaustion that they can no longer physically or mentally work. This is caused by excessive stress from the work place, and it is very common in nursing due to the high demands, low pay, and shortage of available nurses. It is no surprise that a burnout affects many nurses in the US.
The US Needs More Nurses
The shortage of nurses throughout the US is a crisis that shouldn’t be affecting one of the worlds superpowers, and sadly, both the older and younger population are suffering due to this health care crisis. The US needs established and qualified nurses who are perhaps now working in other jobs or retired to give nursing another try. With the increase of patients and the number of active nurses decreasing rapidly, the entire country is going into a health care crisis and needs your help to save it. As well as nurses who already have their qualifications, the workforce is in desperate need of people in the younger generation to take a risk and do what they can for the benefit of both the workers and the patients.
Patients all across the US aren’t receiving the care that they need and deserve due to the shortage of nurses, but if the number of nurses increases, so can the quality of care that each and every patient deserves. Anyone who has gotten into or is interested in the nursing profession has done so because they want to help people and make a difference in the world. If you train to enter the nursing profession, you will not only be making a huge impact on the quality of care that the patients receive, but you will also be helping to improve the working conditions for nurses who give their all for their patients. If you want to help the health service in this time of crisis but already work and don’t have enough money or time to commute for a college course, you can still help patients and nurses by taking part in online nurse practitioner programs. Offering the same tutelage you would receive if you personally attended college, these online programs allow you to learn from the comfort of your own home and choose your own hours to study, meaning that you can prioritize your current job and your family and still make a difference.
The US healthcare system is currently facing a huge crisis when it comes to the number of nurses in it’s workforce, which is directly impacting the quality of care the patients all across the US are receiving. This strike is vitally important, and the government as well as the general population must take notice of the changes that need to be implemented as soon as possible. The nurses around the US need to receive the pay that they deserve, reasonable hours, and the respect to not be overworked for little to no pay. Whilst the government’s waste in their health care spending is largely to blame, a huge part of the issue comes from the simple fact that there simply aren’t enough nurses for the aging and ailing population of America. It is vitally important that nurses who are working in another area of employment think about returning to nursing not only for the benefit of the patients but for the benefit of their fellow nurses, who are struggling desperately in this time of need. If you are interested in nursing and want to do your part to help out the struggling US health care system, consider studying through nursing through college or research online nursing programs. This way, you can become a nurse even if you need to keep your current job while you train. The health care system, patients, and nurses all across the country are suffering due to a lack of workforce, so consider whether you can make a difference.