America is on the verge of a nursing crisis

Teachers in multiple states staged strikes and protests earlier this year. Steelworkers may well strike soon. And now nurses are getting in on the action.

Earlier this month, 7,000 nurses across five states voted by an “overwhelming majority” to authorize a strike if ongoing contract negotiations don’t deliver results. As with the steelworkers, this doesn’t guarantee a work stoppage. But it does show the National Nurses Organizing Committee means business. Another group of nurses employed by the University of Michigan Health System is threatening to strike as well.

The nurses’ complaints involves multiple items, like wages and security issues for nurses treating unstable patients. But arguably the biggest factor is nurse-to-patient ratios. Rosanne O’Malley, a registered nurse of 31 years, and the union’s chief representative, told the Tampa Bay Times that staffing is their top issue: “It’s very hard to do our jobs when we’re expected to take on too many patients.”

By some accounts, nursing shortages have bedeviled the U.S. economy off an on for decades. But they now seem to be growing more acute. America has around 3 million nurses, and it’s one of the economy’s fastest-growing jobs. Yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will be 1 million vacancies for registered nurses by 2024.

What we have here is surging demand and a bottleneck in supply. The result is a country on the verge of a nursing crisis.

– The Week

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