It’s no secret that nursing is a demanding job. We’ve seen that even more so in recent years as we’ve witnessed many nurses and healthcare professionals battle through a global pandemic, so there’s no surprise we’re experiencing a nursing shortage in the healthcare industry.
Despite potential nurses continuing to graduate from nursing school, the number of full-time nurses is dropping, and we could understand why.
By addressing these contributing factors and considering ways to combat them, we could help turn the nursing shortage around.
Learn about the very real nursing shortage and what can be done to help here.
Table of Contents
- Is There Really a Nurse Shortage?
- 5 Factors Contributing to the Nursing Shortage
- Which States Have the Largest Shortage of Nurses?
- 4 Ideas for Easing the Nurse Shortage
- Now Is a GREAT Time To Become a Traveling Nurse — and Trusted Nurse Staffing Can Help
Is There Really a Nurse Shortage?
Yes, and many factors contribute to the nurse shortage that’s projected to only get worse.
Currently, nursing is the nation’s largest healthcare profession. There are nearly 4.2 million registered nurses (RNs) nationwide — about 84% of this total are currently employed in nursing.
Over the next decade, the federal government expects that over 200,000 new RN positions will be created — about a 6% increase each year — causing a greater need for more nurses.
Even though RNs are among the highest paying occupations, there still aren’t enough of them.
Because of the emphasis on preventative care and the fact that baby boomers are living longer and healthier lives, we need more nurses.
Do you have an interest in travel nursing and helping with the nursing shortage? Trusted Nurse Staffing can help find you contracts all across the United States right where you’re needed the most. Contact us today to get started.
5 Factors Contributing to the Nursing Shortage
The nursing shortage is so real that in September 2021, the American Nurses Association (ANA) wrote a plea to the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC, to take immediate action to address the “unsustainable nursing shortage facing our country.”
So why is there a nursing shortage?
Besides the fact that nursing is a demanding job and nurses are simply just tired, five major factors are currently contributing to the lack of nurses in the United States.
Even before COVID-19, the nation was already facing the beginnings of a nurse shortage. But since the global pandemic in 2020, the nursing shortage situation has become dire.
As patients with COVID-19 took over the hospitals, nurses became scared, overworked, and tired. More than one million COVID-19 deaths have been reported in the U.S., and more than 115,000 health workers have died during the global pandemic. While they set out to save lives, they were risking their own.
The Harvard Gazette covered 14 nurses and their story of life and work during the pandemic, accurately depicting how mentally and physically draining being a nurse during the heights of COVID-19 have been. It’s no surprise many RNs felt they could no longer serve their patients after facing such tough and trying times in the hospitals since the start of the pandemic.
And with that, hospitals are suffering, too. There is a great need for all hands on deck, and that means travel nurses. Data shows that hospitals are paying $24 billion more for labor (overtime, travel nurse contracts, etc.) since the COVID-19 pandemic — clearly an unsustainable number.
#2: High Turnover Rates
We know that COVID-19 has caused major turnover rates for RNs, but in reality, high turnover rates were already an issue before the pandemic began and has since only become worse.
A May 2021 article by McKinsey & Company has found through research that 22% of nurses indicate that they may leave their current position before the end of 2022. Their reasons?
- Being short-staffed at work means they’re taking on more work than they can do.
- The highly demanding job is becoming too much to keep up with.
- The emotional toll is more than they can handle.
#3: An Aging Population
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that because baby boomers and millennials are living such healthy lifestyles, they are predicted to live longer than the generations that came before them. Because of this, it is predicted that by 2030, 73 million U.S. residents are projected to be over 65 years old.
With a growing aging population likely comes a larger demand for healthcare workers, nurses included. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that 19% of people over 55 have three or more chronic conditions that require healthcare.
#4: Retiring Nurses
More than half of current RNs are over 50 years old, meaning they are nearing the age of retirement or are more likely to face issues that will prevent them from working long-term.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports nursing as one of the top fields for job growth during this decade, especially because retiring nurses are projected to leave more than 175,000 job openings per year during this time.
#5: A Lack of Nurse Educators
Similar to the nurse shortage is the nurse educators shortage, including:
- College and university faculty
- Preceptors; and
- Clinical instructors
Without educators to teach these aspiring nurses who want to help fill the holes in the nurse shortage, the nurse shortage will never be solved. So why don’t nurse educators want to help teach? There are two major reasons:
- Challenging teaching conditions that have come as a result of COVID-19; and
- Financial conditions
A 2021 survey of 935 university nursing programs done by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing found the following:
- 576 programs had at least one vacancy for a full-time faculty member.
- The full-time university faculty vacancy rate is 8%, up 1.5% from 2020.
- Half of the vacant positions require a doctorate.
- 72% of vacant positions require both classroom and clinical teaching responsibilities.
Which States Have the Largest Shortage of Nurses?
Although the number of graduates from U.S. nursing programs has steadily increased between 2001 and 2015, and over two million new RNs are projected to enter the workforce between 2014 and 2030, some states are still suffering from a large shortage of nurses. The demand for nurses is expected to increase by almost 800,000 nurses before the end of the decade.
So which states are suffering the most? Here are the top three:
- California lacks 44,500 full-time nurse employees.
- Texas ranks second, lacking 15,900 full-time nurses.
- New Jersey comes next, lacking 11,400 full-time nurses.
A few more states follow, including:
- South Carolina (10,400)
- Alaska (5,400)
- Georgia (2,200); and
- South Dakota (1,900)
If you’re worried about the facts of the nursing shortage, and travel nursing interests you, contact Trusted Nurse Staffing today. Our team of recruiters can help you find travel nurse contracts right where you’re needed the most.
4 Ideas for Easing the Nurse Shortage
The nursing shortage won’t be solved overnight, but to help get things moving in the right direction, consider these four ideas to help ease the nurse shortage.
#1: Simplify the Hiring Process
As the aging population continues to rapidly increase, the need for nurses is becoming much larger. Unfortunately, the increase in enrollment for nursing programs in 2019 only increased by 5%, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. This means the supply of talent for human resources teams to choose from is slim.
To help simplify the hiring process for prospective full-time nurses, HR teams can:
- Reduce days-to-hire from the average of 49 days to less than seven using applicant-friendly solutions and tools to help move candidates smoothly through applications, screenings, interviews, and ultimately being hired and starting work.
- Use data to make effective recruiting decisions and target ideal candidates more quickly.
- Gather feedback about their recruiting techniques to help ensure they’re pulling the most ideal candidates.
#2: Offer Flexible Scheduling
A big contributing factor to the nurse shortage is the lack of work-life balance. As more nurses are…
- Needed to cover extra shifts
- Come in when they’re supposed to be off; or
- Continuously miss out on holidays and special celebrations
… they begin to resent their job.
By offering and sticking to altered scheduling, nurses can better accommodate both their personal and professional lives.
Some ideas include:
- “Mom shifts” from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for parents with school-aged children
- Positions with summers off
- Part-time shifts
- Eight-hour shifts
- More flexibility in shift length rather than the standard 12-hour shift
#3: Prevent Burnout
Workplace burnout is also a large contributing factor to the nursing shortage, especially since the global pandemic of COVID-19.
How can you help to prevent this?
- Create a healthy work environment by offering places for staff to eat, relax, or nap.
- Offer incentives like healthy meals, child care assistance, or fitness perks.
- Incorporate flexible scheduling and “mental health days” to help relieve workplace stress.
- Add helpful resources to your Employee Assistance Programs like counseling, mental health screenings, or wellness workshops.
#4: Rethink the Role of Nurse Educators
We know nurse educators are severely lacking and for good reason. By reconsidering who is hired in nurse educator positions, we could help combat the shortage of nurse educators in universities.
Instead of hiring current nurses, consider hiring nurses who are about to retire. Why?
- They have years of experience in their field
- They’re rich in knowledge; and
- They can extend their valuable nursing profession without bedside nursing
Now Is a GREAT Time To Become a Traveling Nurse — and Trusted Nurse Staffing Can Help
Has becoming a travel nurse been weighing heavy on your mind? Now is the time to put your nursing credentials to work on the road, and Trusted Nurse Staffing can help.
There might not be a severe nursing shortage where you live, but there are plenty of nurse shortages around the United States, and those states need your expertise.
Trusted Nurse Staffing has assisted countless nurses to find flexible jobs in all 50 states — the testimonials speak for themselves. And even more than helping with the nursing shortage, travel nurses experience a handful of perks, including getting to travel the country while doing the work you love.
To start your career in travel nursing, contact Trusted Nurse Staffing today.