The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is estimated to currently be affecting more than 200 countries around the world. As of March 31, the virus is estimated to have affected more than 800,000 thousand people and to have directly caused more than 40,000 deaths.
Economically and socially, the virus has already a tremendous impact on many different industries. One of the industries that has been most heavily affected, according to those in the field, has been the nursing industry.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that roughly 3.9 million nurses currently work in the United States. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the bureau estimated that this figure is about 20 percent short of the number of nurses needed to meet the nation’s growing demand for medical care.
As a direct result of the COVID-19 outbreak, the nursing shortage is more evident than ever. Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) has already called for nurses across the country to travel to New York and offer help in a region where the effects of the outbreak have been particularly brutal.
Elsewhere, including Chicago, Washington, and California, reports of nursing shortages — as well as supply shortages — have also been mounting. Various efforts across the nation have attempted to increase the current supply of qualified nurses but, due to the years of training required to become a nurse, increasing this stock has been notoriously difficult.
Accelerating Already Existing Trends
In response to COVID-19, a virus that has been recognized for its ability to spread notoriously quickly, nearly all of the nation’s nursing schools have closed their physical campuses. However, largely because the need for nurses is expected to grow even further, many of these schools are now offering their courses entirely online.
While online nursing courses may offer somewhat of a different experience, studies have indicated that virtual learning can still help many nurses learn the material needed to pass the NCLEX-RN (registered nursing exam).
The shift of courses online, even for the relatively specialized field of nursing, represents an already growing trend in the world of education and certification. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), about 1 in 4 (25.8 percent) students engage in “distance learning” courses online. Even before the outbreak, factors such as cost, ease of use, and flexibility were among the most common reasons people have been choosing to learn online.
Within the broader nursing industry, these changes have been particularly reflected among supplementary certification providers. Online nursing certifications, which are provided by companies such as eMedCert, make it easy for nurses to obtain their appropriate certifications from anywhere in the world. Essential courses, such as Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) can be bundled together and completed in less than one day.
Online courses, both for education and certification, have helped continue the flow of new nurses, even in light of social distancing and other measures. While the impacts of COVID-19 will eventually be mitigated, many within the industry believe the acceleration of these programs may permanently impact the ways nurses are prepared for the field.