It’s no secret that the U.S. has struggled to meet the demand for nurses and healthcare professionals for some time.
While these shortages are a nationwide issue, some states are feeling the strain of too few nurses, particularly those educated at the baccalaureate level, more than others. The Commonwealth of Virginia is facing this challenge.
What Is a BSN Degree?
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is an undergraduate program designed for registered nurses (RNs) seeking to advance their education and career. It typically requires four years of study. However, a fast-track online RN to BSN program like the one at Radford University can help nurses with prior education and nursing experience graduate sooner. This program is specifically tailored for working professionals, allowing flexibility and affordability through an online platform.
The curriculum emphasizes essential nursing theory, evidence-based practice, leadership and critical thinking skills. Students participate in coursework covering healthcare informatics, community health nursing, nursing research and managerial principles.
BSN graduates often have enhanced job prospects and career opportunities and may pursue specialized areas of nursing practice or leadership roles within healthcare organizations. Most healthcare employers now prefer or require nurses to have a BSN due to their advanced skill set and scope of practice, which can contribute to improved patient outcomes and higher-quality care.
Increasing the number of BSN-prepared nurses is also essential for ensuring there are enough nurses to pursue higher degrees, such as master’s and doctoral programs, and fill advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) positions. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that over 30K new APRNs will be needed annually through 2031 to meet rising care demands.
Why Is There a Nursing Shortage?
The reasons for the nursing shortage in Virginia and nationally are complex and have been building for several years:
- Aging population. A significant factor driving the demand is an aging population. The aging Baby Boomer generation requires more healthcare services. This demographic shift has increased demand for nurses.
- Retiring nurses. Many experienced nurses are reaching retirement age, causing an unprecedented loss of skilled professionals in the workforce. The need for skilled professionals is critical in states with rural areas like Virginia, where there may be a lack of healthcare infrastructure and difficulty attracting and retaining nursing talent.
- Educational challenges. A nursing faculty shortage has prevented nursing programs from expanding enrollment to meet the rising demand. Limited access to nursing programs and concerns about time and financial constraints represent common hurdles for potential students.
How Many Registered Nurses Are in Virginia?
The Virginia Nurses Association estimates a 32% shortfall of qualified RNs, resulting in one in three Virginians not receiving necessary healthcare services.
According to the New American Economy, in 2018, there were 33 open healthcare practitioner jobs in Virginia for each available unemployed healthcare professional. For nurses specifically, there were about 42 open positions for each available unemployed nurse, and this need has likely only increased since. Since then, this shortage has not significantly improved. According to Government Executive, the “role of practical nurse experienced the most shortages among clinical positions, with two-thirds of facilities reporting an insufficient staffing level.”
How Is Virginia Addressing Nursing Shortages?
Several initiatives and efforts are underway to address nursing shortages in Virginia. The transfer gateway program guarantees that Virginia Community College students with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) can pursue a BSN at one of the state’s colleges and universities. In addition, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association has launched the On Board Virginia website so individuals can explore current healthcare job opportunities and the benefits of living and working in the state.
The nursing shortage in Virginia poses significant challenges to the healthcare system. Although it will take time to expand the workforce, initiatives like Radford University’s online RN to BSN program and collaborative efforts with colleges and universities can ensure enough qualified nurses to meet residents’ healthcare needs.
Learn more about Radford University’s RN to BSN online program.