It is no secret that we have a shortage of nurses in our country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by the year 2024, the healthcare industry will be looking for 1.09 million new nurses. Up to 60% of those openings will be due to current nurse retirements and the other 40% due to increased demand. The real question is how the nursing shortage is impacting healthcare.
First, consider how the nursing shortage is impacting the current nursing workforce. Nurses are often working longer shifts with higher patient-to-nurse ratios. The conditions are contributing to greater fatigue, more stress, potential injury, and ever-increasing job dissatisfaction. Nurses working in these conditions are more susceptible to suffering the effects of burnout and are at risk of making mistakes.
With today’s nurses under greater pressure to tend to more patients and treat them efficiently, it is only natural to assume that patient care suffers. A May 2013 study published in the BMJ Quality & Safety Journal found a direct correlation between higher patient loads with higher hospital readmission rates. Another study in the American Journal of Infection Control identified “a significant association between high patient-to-nurse ratios and nurse burnout with increased patient infections.”
The nursing shortage is impacting the business-side of the healthcare industry also. In 2016, nursing turnover in hospitals was reported to be above 16% with a turnover cost per nurse of over $44,000. Annually, this equates to financial losses of $4.21 million. Almost 92% of hospitals report that their Emergency Department is experiencing overcrowding and an astonishing 81% report patients on gurneys in the hallway greater than 6 hours every day.
Industry experts are mobilized in their efforts to find achievable solutions to the nursing shortage challenge. One necessary solution is to expand the current capacity of nursing schools nationwide. As demand for more nurses has increased, schools have not kept pace in hiring faculty to meet the demand. Others cite the need to increase funding to help students pay for the cost of a nursing education. Encouraging more students to pursue a career in nursing can be achieved with loan repayment assistance and higher wages across the board. New demographic groups need to be targeted to increase nursing school enrollments. Minority groups and foreign students are underrepresented in entry-level nursing programs.
Hospital administrators and hiring managers are recognizing the need to adapt their recruitment and retention efforts to streamline the hiring process and also to find new ways to reduce nurse turnover. Increasingly, they are turning to strategic partnerships with experienced healthcare staffing agencies, like Supplemental Health Care, to solve their hiring bottlenecks and gain access to a national network of recruitment professionals.
With no single solution to growing staffing challenges, the healthcare industry will continue to evolve, and organizations will adapt to meet patient care demands.If you are a nurse and interested in exploring new opportunities, check out some of the jobs we have available through our online job search tool. If you are an administrator looking for a staffing partner who can help solve your critical challenges, contact our experienced team of professionals today.