Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Caring For An Aging Population...

Nursing homes in South Dakota are currently doing a good job at providing for our elderly population. This is an area where we must continually work to keep up with the changing demographics in our state in order to continue to provide comprehensive services. Healthcare in South Dakota faces serious challenges. We are pressed for physicians in some of the more rural regions of our state and the growing gap between the youth and the elderly leaves many asking who is going to take care of our aging population?

In a recent study, Aging and Health in South Dakota: Who Will Provide Care, authors Diane K. Duin and De Vee E. Dykstra cite a passage from Our Aging Population by Ellen Lanser (2002): “As a result of demographic trends in our country, we face an insufficient supply of nurses, pharmacists, radiologists, physicians, to name a few… the senior population uses healthcare services at a much higher level than the rest of the population.”

We realize, from recent articles in newspapers across the state, that South Dakota faces shortages in the healthcare industry, especially in rural regions of the state. If the other states across the country will be competing for these professionals in the future… how will South Dakota fare? How will we entice students and professionals to our state? The answer lies in our ability to realize these challenges and act on them.

The changing demographics of our workforce in South Dakota indicate we should seriously consider these challenges while we are able to directly do something about them. As Duin and Dykstra point out from the Report of Nursing Workforce Supply in South Dakota, the number of RNs and LPNs in our state has declined. They also delve into education for future RNs and LPNs, pointing out that students entering these professions in South Dakota schools have decreased in recent years. The study reveals how magnet counties play a role in the unequal distribution of healthcare professionals in South Dakota… very similar to many other economic and professional shortages we are facing.

How long will it take before we as a citizenry and as a state act on these issues? To better this situation for the future we must look after the well being of the entire state, we must work progressively to provide opportunities and education to our youth, and above all we must look to the well being of our communities, as they are the backbone of the economic fabric in South Dakota.

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