September brings us back to many things; back to school, back to favorites of autumn and back to a fall routine after the fling of summer. Since it is back to school for our teenagers, I wanted to bring some awareness to a growing problem that is in the news today. Rather than swapping pencils and homework assignments, many teens are swapping prescription pills that they took from their parents' medicine cabinets. School nurses are getting actively involved in trying to educate and prevent this oftentimes deadly problem.
Another story that is heard in the news constantly is the economy and the shortage of jobs. How is the economy affecting nurses today and what is the outlook for the future? Please read on for some interesting answers.
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Jobs or No Jobs
Despite a widely held belief that nursing is a "recession-proof" profession, new graduates in some areas of the country report difficulties finding a job. Surveys by the National Student Nurses Association of 2009 and 2010 new graduates show that more than 40% of nurses that responded had not found a job by midsummer. The American Hospital Association reports a nursing vacancy rate of 4% which is down from 11.4% in 2006. "Associate degree nurses are having the hardest time finding entry-level positions," says Diane J. Mancino, RN, EdD, CAE, executive director of the National Student Nursing Association. "Vacancies, when they do exist, are often filled first with BSN grads."
Analysts say that the economy is the reason for the hiring slowdown with older RNs deciding to stay in the workforce. Ninety percent of hospitals surveyed by the AHA in March reported they had not added back the staff hours or positions that were cut during the deepest part of the recession in 2008 and ninety eight percent said that they had not restored services or programs that were cut during that time. However, nursing leaders and educators say the situation is not as dire as it may seem. The jobs will come back. Older nurses will retire and more people are expected to get health insurance because of healthcare reform.
Although the job market is weak right now, the health care industry holds a lot of hope for college graduates, for years to come. Thousands more health care workers will be needed in the coming decade to treat the increasing number of older Americans, particularly the enormous baby boom generation. In Florida alone, U.S. Census data shows that the population of persons 65 and older is projected to increase by 82 percent through 2020 to reach the number of 5.1 million.
In addition to the changing population, the field of medical technology in diagnosing and treating diseases is rapidly evolving. As the range of occupations in the health care industry grows and new specialties are created, the sheer number of health care workers is bound to grow as well.
The chart below shows the number of employees in 2008 and the percentages are the projected change from 2008 to 2018:
Health care, total: 14,336,000; 22.5%
Hospitals, public and private: 5,667,200; 10.1%
Nursing and residential care facilities: 3,008,000; 21.2%
Offices of physicians: 2,265,700; 34.1%
Home health care services: 958,000; 46.1%
Offices of dentists: 818,800; 28.5%
Offices of other health practitioners: 628,800; 41.3%
Outpatient care centers: 532,500; 38.6%
Other ambulatory health care services: 238,500; 6.8%
Medical and diagnostic laboratories: 218,500; 39.8%
Source: BLS National Employment Matrix
Growing Problem Among Teens
Prescription drug abuse is the nation's fastest growing drug problem and our teenagers are right in the middle of it. The government reports that more than three million teens have abused prescription drugs. The majority of the teens are getting them right out of their own medicine cabinets. Seven out of ten kids say that the first time they abused prescription drugs it was from their own home.
In an attempt to reduce the prescription drug availability to teenagers, the National Drug Enforcement Agency just held a national event on Saturday, September 25, 2010. National Take Back Day allowed citizens to safely dispose of unwanted, unused and expired prescription drugs at over 4,000 sites across the country. This was a safe and anonymous way to clean up medicine cabinets and hopefully make it harder for teenagers to obtain pills. The DEA plans to incinerate the drugs later in the week. This nationwide event helps to bring awareness to this growing problem and educate parents and grandparents on the importance of not allowing teens access to their medications.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in addition to painkillers, teens are abusing stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall and depressants like Valium and Xanax. Sixty percent of the teens that are abusing prescription drugs do so before the age of 15.
Multiple national surveys point to not only the disturbing abuse of prescription drugs among teens, but also the alarming rise of over the counter medicines such as cough medicine. Six percent of high schoolers admit to having abused cough medicine containing dextromethorphan, or DXM, to get high in the past year. Thirty three percent of teens say they know someone who has abused cough medicine. The National Association of School Nurses has partnered with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association to provide school nurses and parents with tools to help address teen medicine abuse. They have created a program called "Smart Moves, Smart Choices." This program will be aimed to educate middle and high school students about the serious risks of abusing prescription and over the counter medications.
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