There is a critical nursing shortage in the United States today, and it is not predicted to get any better. It is estimated that by 2010, the state of Florida will need thirty five thousand additional nurses to meet the needs of the health care consumers in this state (Helm, 1998). The reasons behind the shortage are simple to explain, but much harder to address. .
The rapid increase in the geriatric population as the "Baby Boomers" approach retirement age will add to this nursing shortage immensely as the nurses in that generation retire as well (Buerhaus, 2001). Additionally, there has been a drop in college nursing programs over the past several years. It is thought, in previous decades, women became nurses simply because of the limited arena in which women could work, and the increasing need for a second family income for financial stability. As time passed, and more choices of career opportunities opened up for women, the number of women who chose nursing as a profession dropped by thirty five percent (Buerhaus, 2001). .
In an attempt to address the shortage of trained qualified nurses, many institutions have started utilizing the services of unlicensed assistive personnel. These individuals have no formalized medical training, yet they perform many of the skilled procedures, in a variety of medical institutions and settings, that were previously performed only by a registered nurse (Helm, 1998). Not only are these unlicensed assistive personnel found in the hospitals and physician's office where they can receive limited direct supervision, they are also being utilized in other areas where they receive absolutely no direct supervision from registered nurses. .
This year, in Palm Beach County, these unlicensed assistive personnel are found in our local school system, where in previous years registered nurses were found (Miller, 2002). Utilization of these unlicensed personnel in the midst of this nursing shortage can prove to be disastrous.