Solve the Nursing Shortage With Compassionate Care and Earlier Education

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Any nurse can tell you that their career is more than a job. Every day, these professionals face challenges unlike any other by providing comfort and care to their patients during some of their deepest struggles. But for every challenge, there are meaningful personal and professional rewards.

Today, however, the nursing field faces a new challenge – especially in the state of Indiana. According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, registered nurse is the most in-demand occupation in the state, and job openings for these positions are projected to increase by nearly 19 percent over the next decade.

This shortage isn’t just a problem in Indiana – we can see it nationwide. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of registered nurses will grow 16 percent from 2014 to 2024 due to aging and retiring baby boomers, increased access to health insurance, and advances in healthcare that extend the average lifespan. This demographic change will also require more nurses with specialties who can provide care in a variety of settings.

It’s clear the nursing shortage calls for action, and we need to take a multi-faceted approach to get there. As part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the country, St. Vincent provides a mission-driven setting for healthcare professionals in an already rewarding field, with an emphasis on caring for our most vulnerable communities and total wellness: body, mind, and spirit. Not only does this align with our values, but it provides meaning for employees. Mission-driven employees are 54 percent more likely to stay at their job for more than five years.

But these meaningful career opportunities mean nothing if future professionals don’t know this is a realistic option for them. That’s why St. Vincent partners with other mission-driven organizations to prepare more students at early ages to pursue degrees in healthcare and other high-demand industries.

For example, we partner with Project Lead The Way (PLTW), an Indianapolis-based education nonprofit, to develop interest in medical careers from a young age. This spring, Ascension will be hosting its first student showcase in cities across the country, including Indianapolis. PLTW Biomedical Science students will present their year-end projects in front of Ascension associates and leaders, who can give feedback from real-world experience and share insight into the variety of careers offered in healthcare.

We also recognize that educators are an important part of this equation. To help them see the unique career opportunities available to their students – and the skills they need to take advantage of them – teachers need an inside look at these industries. By contributing video content to PLTW’s teacher training this summer, Ascension was able to help educators understand some of the careers and specialties involved in healthcare facilities every day.

By partnering with schools across the country, we’re helping students step into the roles of specialized nurses, medical investigators, surgeons, microbiologists, biomedical engineers, and more. Ultimately, these students will be better prepared to explore careers that innovate and advance the healthcare industry in our country.

As we prepare for the workforce of tomorrow and the shifting demands of industries, we must provide mission-driven work and ensure students are given the opportunity early in their education to develop skills that will be critical in future careers. In nursing and beyond, Indiana’s business leaders have the chance, and obligation, to lay the foundation for our state’s future.

Cindy Adams is the System Chief Nursing Officer at St. Vincent, a part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the country.

This article is part of a series with education nonprofit Project Lead The Way that explores Indiana’s Future-Ready Workforce. For more information on how your business can make a difference, visit pltw.org/partner.

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