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Older, Sicker Populations Mean AR Will Need More Nurses

According to the state Board of Nursing, more than 40,000 registered nurses are working in Arkansas. (Adobe Stock)
According to the state Board of Nursing, more than 40,000 registered nurses are working in Arkansas. (Adobe Stock)
January 28, 2020

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- An aging Baby Boomer population is leaving many nurses in the state saddled with overwhelming caseloads. Arkansas has around 12 registered nurses for every 1,000 residents, according to data from the Arkansas Center for Nursing.

President of the Arkansas Nurses Association Stephen Pennington said because nurses are in such high demand nationwide, it's easy for colleagues to get jobs elsewhere.

"We are seeing people who are living life longer, and who also are sicker," Pennington said. "We're going to need additional nurses."

But there is a silver lining: according to a 2018 report by the Arkansas Center for Nursing, most nursing programs in the state currently have more applicants than available seats for enrollment.

The World Health Organization has declared 2020 the "Year of the Nurse" in celebration of Florence Nightingale's 200th birthday. Nightingale is considered the founder of modern nursing.

Pennington noted in many rural parts of the state, nurses are the sole health-care providers for some households.

"You're seeing nurses in all aspects of primary-care visits," he said. "You have nurse practitioners who are making way and becoming the general practitioner that families now see for their primary health care needs."

He also noted one concerning trend: according to national data, 1 in 4 nurses is assaulted in the workplace, which he said points to a need for better mental health services.

"Nursing is a tough field. One thing that we're seeing a growth in is the amount of workplace violence," Pennington said. "We think that these incidents are increasing just because of how sick people are becoming nowadays. More and more people are using health care services."

Pennington said he hopes state legislators will take action to protect nurses on the job, and noted pending federal legislation also would require health care employers to investigate all incidents of workplace violence.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - AR