In today’s healthcare landscape, staffing challenges are nothing new. However, our current situation has become an urgent crisis: an astonishing 8 out of 10 nurses anticipate that nursing shortage will worsen over the coming years and continue to stress healthcare systems across America.
Being part of the healthcare field or even being an individual patient, it’s critical that one understands why nurses hold this view and how it might reverberate throughout the system.
The Data Speaks Volumes
Firstly, let’s talk about the numbers. Vacancies for registered nurses could reach 1,00,000 by 2024, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This gaping hole in the healthcare workforce is due to a combination of factors: an aging population requiring increased care, an aging workforce retiring, and insufficient staffing that predates the COVID-19 pandemic.
An insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, and clinical preceptors are impacting intake at U.S. nursing schools. An American Association of Colleges of Nursing report detailed that over 80000 applicants – all qualified from nursing programs – were turned away.
The Ripple Effects of the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant catalyst in this crisis. With nurses on the front lines, many experienced severe burnout, leading to a higher turnover rate. A study conducted by Nursing Solutions, Inc. revealed that the average hospital turnover rate in 2020 was a staggering 18.8%, with registered nurses accounting for a significant portion of this.
Exhaustion and Burnout
Long hours, high patient loads and the emotional strain associated with nursing has resulted in high rates of nurse burnout. A 2020 survey by the American Nurses Association showed that over 60% reported feeling overwhelmed due to dealing with critical illnesses, end-of-life scenarios and pandemic stress; all contributing to burnout that is prompting many nurses to leave the profession altogether.
The Worsening Ripple Effect
As more nurses depart the profession, those left behind are expected to pick up where others have left off; leading them to work longer hours with added stress levels and ultimately experiencing burnout themselves. It is an unsustainable trend according to our nurses; only bound to become worse over time. Now, more nurses are also turning to agencies, like a physician recruiter, in an attempt to get contracts more tailored to a normal lifestyle, preventing burnout in the process.
Can We Turn the Tide?
Despite this grim outlook, it’s not all doom and gloom. Solutions to this crisis are being explored, from increasing nurse education funding and providing better workplace support to investing in preventative care to reduce patient loads.
However, these changes will require time, effort, and significant system-wide shifts. It’s an uphill battle, and nurses are bracing themselves for the challenge. Right now, in the US, nurses are currently striking for better pay, so the healthcare system is still in the midst of recovering from years of wrongdoing.
Patients and healthcare providers rely on nurses’ expertise and compassion, so their predictions of an impending crisis should not be taken lightly; rather they serve as an urgent call to action requiring increased funding, improved support services, and substantial changes in how we perceive and structure healthcare system.
At every turn on this path lies opportunity and danger – making sure conversations stay alive, understanding the gravity of situations as they develop, and supporting nurses is of vital importance to maintaining healthcare delivery systems that function smoothly – our nurses form this essential thread which should not be neglected! Therefore we owe it both them and ourselves to address this crisis head on and act swiftly upon its occurrence.