Purdue combats national nursing shortage

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — The need for nurses is continually growing in the country. It’s growing so much, the Bureau of Labor says from 2016 to 2026 the expected growth is by 15 percent.

That’s compared to seven percent growth across all occupations.

The Greater Lafayette area and Purdue University are working together to stay ahead of the curve.

“What we’re looking at is nurses who are meeting the needs of the community,” said Dr. Nancy Edwards. 

Edwards, who is an associate professor in Purdue’s School of Nursing, said to meet those needs the university has decided to accept more applicants.

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Typically 1,400 students apply and around 100 are accepted. In 2016 the school of nursing pushed that number up to around 200 and hopes to keep the numbers roughly the same for the future.

The accepted nurses need to be multi-faceted.

“Nurses who not only have the technical skills they need in nursing, but also what we call the soft skills,” said Edwards.

It’s the art of nursing, which is showing compassion, being a good listener and having a steady work ethic.

Even with all of that, the shortage is startling. 

“By 2030, (registered nurses) would increase from 2.8 million to 3.6 million,” said Edwards

The nursing shortage is intensifying due to the aging baby boomers.

More than 1 million RN’s will retire by 2030 and Purdue is doing everything it can to combat that.

“We’re going into public health, community health and rural health,” said Edwards. “We are in all of the areas now, not just the hospital.”

Being a nurse is so much more than it used to be with the expansion of health care. The growth of opportunities has contributed to the nursing shortage, and RNs and students experience that first hand.

“I didn’t really realize it when I started working, but once you start working you definitely feel the effects of having low staffing numbers,” said RN Mariah Scheker. “That affects you personally as a nurse and it affects patients too.”

“You do feel those effects and our patients feel those as well,” said RN Nachel Rhoades.

The effects will keep piling on, but Purdue and community partners are striving to do the best they can.

“We find new avenues, what nurses can do,” said Edwards. “Our goal is to try to keep up with it the best we can and to prepare the nurses in the widest realm.”

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported baccalaureate nursing programs increased 3.7 percent in 2018.