ICU nurse shortage will be a problem for years to come
The Netherlands faces a shortage of intensive care nurses, and that shortage will be a problem for years to come, NU.nl reports. Not enough people want to become ICU nurses. Hospitals are also at the limits of their training capacity, the newspaper found when talking to professional association V&VN, hospitals, and locking at figures from the Healthcare Training Board and Capacity Body.
The intensive care capacity is primarily determined by the available staff. And the capacity is currently under severe pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge asked hospitals to scale up to 1,250 ICU beds after the hospitals made clear that the government's target of 1,350 beds was unattainable, according to newspaper Trouw.
The shortage of ICU nurses is partly because people are leaving the profession. But also because not enough ICU nurses were trained in the past years. Last year, 462 people started training to become ICU nurses in Dutch hospitals, about 300 too few, according to NU.nl. The same was true for the three prior years.
According to V&VN, the main reason for not enough ICU nurses in training is that there are insufficient general nurses. ICU training comes on top of a general nursing qualification. "Too few students register for general nursing training," Rowan Marijnissen of the V&VN said to NU.nl. "And if you consider that everyone in healthcare, from mental healthcare to ICU, is desperate for people, then you get an idea of how difficult it is."
An essential part of becoming an ICU nurse is practical training. And that is the second problem. Hospitals are at the limit of their practical training capacity. NU.nl spoke to six hospitals, and most of them said they are currently training the maximum number of ICU nurses they can handle.
Hospitals made agreements to increase the number of ICU nurses in the coming years after the coronavirus pandemic made abundantly clear how devastating such a shortage can be. Whether they will succeed remains to be seen.