Nursing can be considered as one of the most difficult jobs that any person could imagine. The time needed to attend to one patient to the next, plus the physical and emotional turmoil that may be encountered in the daily routine seem to be most challenging. The research done by Roger Eley, Diann Eley and Cath Rogers-Clark (2010) showed various factors that affected students and nurses to take on this type of occupation, and sometimes caused them to leave this occupation as well. Although the study has concentrated only on a region in Queensland, the information that they were able to gather can be assessed and compared to those in other Australian regions, and maybe in some countries, if the same trend is observed. The results from this study have provided an insight on what the government, universities and even the private health sector is facing, as recognized by the shortage of nurses across the country, and all over the world.
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The survey that Eley (2010) conducted determined the most common reasons why students and nurses took up nursing, and why students and nurses leave nursing schools or the occupation itself. The study focused on the employed nurses in a public health service which may indicate some bias because nurses in private hospitals and other health care centers may have a different perspective. Although the researchers have identified the reasons for entering and leaving nursing through other available literature, I do not think that giving a pre-determined answer to their questions provided the correct hierarchy of the reasons given by the respondents. It somehow gives the bias because the respondents no longer have to think back or recall the reason why they took nursing as a degree, and the same with the reasons for leaving nursing. The fact that nurses are very busy people, it could even be assumed that some probably did not have much time in answering the questionnaires and simply checked whatever three reasons just to finish it. The case for the nursing students would have probably been the same, the pre-determined answers in the questionnaires also has a certain amount of bias to it, and answering five instead of just three reasons could have affected the hierarchy of the reasons that the researchers have presented.
Based on the data that Eley (2010) obtained, most nurses and nursing students are female, taking about 90% of the total respondents. This shows that the perception of the male population on nursing has not really changed over the years. The most common idea of nursing as a female-dominated occupation or degree does not also change across different cultures. In 1997, Soerlie, Talseth and Norberg conducted a follow-up of their ten-year study to interview the male nurses they have interviewed when they were still nursing students. Their research showed that the male nurses entered nursing schools because of the desire to take on a woman’s responsibility; and that most of them had fathers who disapproved of their decisions. The bias in gender by the male family members or peers of male nursing students, as well as the acceptance of male nurses in the fields of gynaecology and obstetrics, have become the main reasons why males are discouraged of entering nursing schools (AusmedOnline, 2010). This reason should have been included in the study that Eley (2010) conducted.
Most of the nursing students were in the age range of 20 to 29 years old, while the most number of nurses were between 40 to 49 years old (Eley, 2010). This distribution shows a 20 year gap between the average age of the nursing students and the age of the nurses who are currently practicing their chosen career. This gap, indeed, indicates that most of the nursing students either leave nursing schools or no longer intend to practice nursing after they graduate. The correlation of the respondents’ age to the number of years they have practiced their profession is evident in the study of Eley (2010), as most of the nurse respondents have about 15 years experience in the field of nursing.
The 40-year-old age range of nurses is not only being experienced in Queensland, but also in Victoria and the entirety of Australia. The health workforce in Victoria, as well as the whole Australian nursing workforce has the average age of 42 years old recorded in 2005 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2005). The same age of nurses is observed in Maryland, USA, which is also about 46 years old, and that of the United States is averaged to about 43 years old. They have also presented that the average age that a registered nurse (RN) graduates is about 31, which would result to a decrease in the number of years of service (“Nursing Shortage”, n.d.). This issue will also hold true for the Australian health workforce since most nurses on the survey of Eley (2010) have identified health concerns and retirement as two of the top reasons why nurses leave their career. Assessing the most dominant age group, these nurses probably have the intention of retiring within 5 to 10 years because by that time, their health could already be declining and they may no longer have the strength to carry on with the usual daily nurse routines. The Department of Health and Ageing [DHA], in 2008, has also identified the ageing of the nurses in Australia as one of their main concerns, since they have estimated that about 30% of the total nurse population is nearing retirement. Although there was an observed 10% increase in the number of nursing students from 2005 to 2006 (DHA, 2008), there is still no guarantee that all of them will continue to pursue the profession and practice it for at least 15 years.
In 2001, the Department of Education, Science and Training [DEST] conducted a focus group research for nursing students. This research determined the students’ expectations in nursing education and was also able to identify factors that affected their desire to study and the factors that influenced the selection of the course. The main influence for the desire to take up nursing among the students was the family background. In the focus group, the students mostly had family members who have jobs inclined to medical sciences or health occupations. However, this observation was also not included in the study by Eley (2010) as one of the reasons why nursing students and nurses entered nursing.
Another influence that was determined in the focus group was the experience of the profession, prior to enrolling in the course itself, as one-third of the students have become EN or SEN. The lessons they have learned in the experiences encouraged them to pursue the degree and the profession. Aside from the first-hand experiences, television series like ER, have also increased the appreciation for the profession, and this is also a form of encouragement for the nursing students (DEST, 2001).
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The reason that the nurse and nursing student respondents agreed upon which appears to be most difficult to address is the disillusionment in the profession. For a large number of nursing students and nurses to say “disillusionment”, clearly shows that very little, or probably no appreciation could be felt by those who are pursuing or practicing nursing. Although the survey was conducted only in a public health centre, the sentiments that the nurses have could be magnified even more when all other sectors with practicing nurses are considered. However, disillusionment was not the main reason that Eley et al. (2007) found out on the surveys they have conducted in 2001 and 2004. Based on their research, the most prevalent reason for nurses taking a break from their jobs is because of family responsibilities, inclusive of paternal or maternal leave (Eley et al. 2007). Comparing the two researches, there seems to be a change in the priorities of most nurses, or another way to look at it, is that the reason about disillusionment was not of major concern at that time. The methodology done by the group of Eley in 2007 was more representative of the whole nursing population because they also considered the nurses who were working in the private sector and they were able to classify them accordingly based on where they practice their profession such as aged care or in private or public hospitals. This approach seems to be more objective and would decrease the bias as compared to the methodology approach that Eley did in 2010. Furthermore, an improved sampling population for the nursing students is expected to provide better information regarding the issues being confronted by the nursing students.
By comparing the information being presented in the article by Eley (2010) with the existing records in terms of the population of the current nursing workforce in Australia, the distribution is almost similar even if the respondents were less than the number in their previous work.
Researches have different techniques when they are seeking for the information they want to know from their target prospects. However, despite these differences, it is undeniable that the studies they conduct aim to bring out the truth in the various issues in life and in this case, that of the welfare for nurses and nursing students. Eley and his team, and other researches related to Eley’s studies, were able to justify the need for the society to support the employed nurses, as well as the nursing students who have primarily chosen this profession because of their great desire to care for other people. The numerous researches that have been done for more than a decade clearly suggests the need for a change in the work environment of nurses and nursing students so that problems like disillusionment would no longer be the reason for leaving the profession. Now that the truth has been properly justified by facts and statistically analyzed, the government and the private health sector are faced with the challenge of coming up with better solutions to reduce the number of nurses and nursing students that leave the profession; and at the same time, put even greater effort to encourage nurses and nursing students to continue their noble acts of charity.
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