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Arkansas State University

Nurses: Be an Oasis in the Hospital Desert!

Even in our modern society, with all our conveniences, some people can’t get their basic needs met.

You may have heard of food deserts, where people — especially working class and poor people without transportation — live far away from grocery stores that have fruits, vegetables, and other healthy food choices.

There are also hospital deserts. As defined by a CNN article in 2017, a hospital desert is a community more than 30 miles from a medical facility that offers emergency care. Sixteen percent of the U.S. mainland meets this definition, and it includes zones that might surprise some Americans. (This includes parts of Arkansas and its neighboring states.)

Hospital Deserts in Urban Centers

The problem could get worse before it gets better; the same article discusses a number of rural hospitals in danger of closing. For some health emergencies — like heart attacks and strokes — being even five or six miles from a healthcare facility can put one’s life in jeopardy. One recent editorial from the Miami Herald named scenarios in which a person might experience a health crisis in the Miami metro area, and be dangerously far from the medical care he or she would need.

Telemedicine Can Help

Over time, technology might allow for people in hospital deserts to be treated through telemedicine before their health issues become emergencies. Innovations might allow hospital systems to restructure in ways to keep their rural hospitals open. But in the coming years, one of the most important issues to address is the projection of a nursing shortage.

The Nursing Shortage

A CNN article breaking down the issue notes two main concerns: One is a large number of nurses who are retiring, and the other is an aging population, living longer with more chronic health issues. The merging of these two factors led the American Nurses Association to conclude that the U.S. will need a million more nurses by 2022.

But there’s an additional issue as well. Many prospective nurses, as CNN notes, are having a hard time getting into nursing programs because there is so much competition. With more and more healthcare facilities requiring their nurses to have BSN degrees, there’s a potential bottleneck — more nursing instructors or maybe even more schools will be needed to address the problem.

Online RN to BSN Programs

One innovation has emerged in recent years to address the needs of 21st century healthcare facilities: the online RN to BSN program. Arkansas State University offers a program that allows an RN to return to school by simply logging onto a computer with internet access. Within 12 months, it’s possible to earn the degree that is becoming the new standard in nursing care.

It’s going to take a lot of effort from healthcare systems and policymakers to address the ongoing hospital desert crisis. We may never eliminate all hospital deserts, but as an RN with a BSN, you could become an oasis in the healthcare desert.

Learn more about A-State’s online RN to BSN program.


CNN: Millions of Americans Live Nowhere Near a Hospital, Jeopardizing Their Lives

CNN Money: Nursing Schools Are Rejecting Thousands of Applicants – in the Middle of a Nursing Shortage

Miami Herald: Bringing Healthcare to ‘Hospital Desert’

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