Nurses play a vital role within every community. They treat the sick and wounded, assist mothers with childbirth, care for the elderly during their final days, and much more. Simply put, they are a critical part of our healthcare system.
Recruiting and retaining nurses has become an increasingly difficult task due to a quickly accelerating nursing shortage in 2020. A variety of factors have converged to facilitate this shortage, leaving hospitals across the country unable to hire enough staff. To provide patients with the vital care they need to survive, hospital administrators must learn how to address the nursing shortage head-on.
Is There Really a Nurse Shortage?
Yes. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), in October 2010, the Institute of Medicine “called for increasing the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in the workforce to 80% and doubling the population of nurses with doctoral degrees.” Yet despite this call to action, only 64.2% of registered nurses are prepared at the baccalaureate or graduate level.
Regardless of these statistics, some healthcare administrators believe that reports of a nursing shortage are overstated. They aren’t inherently wrong. To truly understand the nursing shortage, it must be evaluated on a state-by-state level.
While states like California and Texas are expected to face deficits of 44,500 and 15,900 nurses, respectively, others, including Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, are predicted to experience a surplus of nurses in the coming decade. The cause of this variance is largely attributed to differences in local conditions, including the number of new graduates from nursing schools within each state.
Why is There a Shortage of Nurses?
To effectively address the nursing shortage, hospital administrators must first understand why it exists in the first place. There is no single explanation for the shortage, but rather a variety of factors working together to compound the problem, including:
Demographic Shifts: By 2030, an estimated 82 million Americans will be over the age of 65. As the baby boomer generation enters retirement age, an increasing number of nurses across medical fields — from urgent care to palliative care — will be needed to accommodate them. At the same time, an estimated one million nurses will retire by 2025. If demand for nurses outgrows the number of nurses available, healthcare facilities across the country will be without adequate staffing numbers.
Educational Challenges: As the demand for nurses increases, the number of young people entering nursing school is also rising. At first glance, this trend appears to address the nursing shortage, but the AACN warns that many nursing schools do not have the resources needed to meet demand, ultimately exacerbating the healthcare labor shortage.
According to the association’s 2019-2020 report on baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs, U.S. nursing schools turned away 80,407 qualified candidates in 2019 due to an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, and clinical preceptors, as well as budget constraints. In fact, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said they could not accept qualified applicants into their nursing programs due to a shortage of faculty and/or clinical preceptors.
High Turnover: Another factor contributing to the nursing shortage is high turnover within the industry. In 2019, average turnover rates were 15.9% for registered nurses and 26.5% for certified nursing assistants. Emergency room nurses exceeded the national average with a turnover rate of 18.5%, followed closely by critical care nurses at 18.1%. According to the research, new nurses are particularly prone to turnover, with 27.6% of all new hires leaving their roles within a year.
How to Effectively Recruit Nurses
Administrators facing a shortage of nursing applicants should consider adjusting the requirements embedded in the nursing recruitment process. Many hospitals require candidates to have multiple years of experience before they are even considered a viable applicant. This leaves countless entry-level nurses who are eager to learn and serve their communities without a place to practice. By hiring emerging professionals, hospitals can effectively expand their staff while investing in their future.
Hospitals must also learn how to market themselves to further improve the hiring process. For healthcare institutions in states experiencing a shortage of applicants, that means finding ways to set themselves apart from the competition. Establishing a healthy, engaging workplace environment, one that promotes teamwork, work/life balance, and learning opportunities may be the best recruiting strategy for nurses.
But fostering a supportive work environment isn’t just about strong nursing recruitment — it’s a way to reduce turnover, too. Signing bonuses, competitive salaries, professional development opportunities, and mentorship programs are all effective ways to attract new nurses and retain existing ones.
Recruit New Employees with Confidence
If your hospital is challenged by how to deal with staff shortages in nursing, you’re not alone. Hospital administrators across the country are striving to understand how to recruit and retain nurses in a highly unpredictable market.
At Relias, we’re here to help you navigate the nursing shortage and improve retention rates. We offer a variety of solutions to understaffing in nursing, from expert-led webinars to comprehensive toolkits and beyond, allowing you to create an environment where new nurses and existing ones can thrive. For more information on recruiting during the nursing shortage, contact us today.