The nursing shortage crisis continues in healthcare facilities nationwide, putting immense strain on nurses and management teams and ultimately impacting patient care. As healthcare demands grow—due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an aging population, rising chronic illnesses, and seasonal factors such as influenza—the need for effective strategies to alleviate this nursing shortage crisis becomes more urgent.
This blog post explains the nursing shortage crisis and delves into nursing shortage solutions through practical strategies that healthcare facilities can employ to address the nursing shortage. From proactive recruitment and retention initiatives to promoting work-life balance, we will explore ways to attract and retain qualified nurses. This blog post also examines the impact of the nursing shortage on patient care, emphasizing the critical importance of finding sustainable solutions for the benefit of both nurses and patients.
Understanding the Nursing Shortage Crisis | Is There a Nursing Shortage?
These nursing shortage statistics will help paint a picture of the extent of the nursing shortage crisis in 2023. An analysis of the nursing workforce indicates that the total number of registered nurses (RNs) dropped by over 100,000 from 2020 to 2021, making it the highest decrease in the past four decades.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, by 2035, ten US states are estimated to have a shortage of RNs. The government agency's Nurse Workforce Projections cites multiple factors that cause this shortage, including the following:
- Nursing enrollment is quickly declining, and nursing schools are falling behind in delivering the projected demand for nursing professionals.
- Nursing programs have insufficient resources to enroll more aspiring nurses and are turning away qualified students, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).
- A significant portion of the nursing workforce expects to retire in the next decade, contributing to the nursing shortage crisis.
- Fatigue, anxiety, and stress, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, have caused record rates of burnout amongst nurses, causing some to leave the profession altogether or explore other options such as telehealth (telemedicine) nursing or flexible, per diem nursing opportunities.
The Impact of the Nursing Shortage Crisis on Patient Care
The nursing shortage crisis profoundly impacts patient care, creating significant challenges within healthcare systems. With fewer nurses available to meet the growing demand for care, patient outcomes can be compromised through longer wait times and reduced attention to individual patients; generally speaking, an increased nurse workload can lead to decreased quality of care due to a low nurse-to-patient ratio.
Additionally, the shortage may contribute to medication errors, delayed treatments, and inadequate monitoring of patient conditions, all of which can have severe consequences for patient safety. Studies show direct links between understaffed healthcare facilities and increased death rates, hospital infections, and readmission rates, which means that the nursing shortage crisis can lead to increased patient mortality.
Effective Strategies to Address the Nursing Shortage
The impact of the nursing shortage crisis on patient care stresses the importance of developing nursing shortage solutions and nurse retention strategies. Since the repercussions of the nursing crisis are dire, facilities must consider how they can increase nurses' satisfaction, leading to greater retention and better patient outcomes.
Health facilities can do this in several ways, including the following:
- Prioritize workplace culture to increase retention of nursing staff, which includes taking care of existing nurses, prioritizing their wellness, and supporting them in their work by creating a culture of openness, providing mentorship, encouraging professional development, and developing leadership and progression plans for nurses looking to advance their careers and earn a higher salary.
- Prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion. For nurses from underrepresented backgrounds—from ethnic minorities to lower socio-economic groups—representation in nursing makes the field more accessible and attractive; it also contributes to improving patient outcomes since patients’ needs can be better understood and supported by nurses of similar backgrounds.
- Invest in nurse training and professional development to retain and build the skills of current nurses who can educate and mentor nurses that are just joining the profession.
- Partner with nursing school programs to offer placements for nursing students and offer opportunities to help retain the top nursing graduates looking to enter the workforce in a supportive environment.
- Involve existing nurses in recruitment and compensate them for referrals. Nurses often have a vast network of other nursing professionals from previous jobs and their nursing school days, and it would be wise to take advantage of this.
- Use innovation and technology to make the work friendlier for nurses. For instance, using technology for the technical or administrative function of nurses to reduce their workload can ensure that nurses have more time to make crucial decisions and provide patient care rather than participate in repetitive tasks which they may find draining.
- Include nurses in planning and policymaking to address the nursing shortage crisis. Nurses know best why their peers are leaving the profession, so tap into their feedback to strengthen your health facility by developing nursing shortage solutions.
The Benefits of Per Diem Nursing
As health facilities consider whether they should hire per diem nurses or staff nurses during the current nursing shortage crisis, it's essential to consider the benefits of per diem nursing.
Per diem nurses have the freedom to choose their own schedule and work on an as-needed basis, allowing them to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Per diem nurses also bring a wealth of experience, as they have worked in various healthcare settings and can quickly adapt to new environments. There are also financial advantages for both health facilities and nurses: nurses are often attracted to per diem nursing due to the higher hourly pay rates, and facilities cut costs by not having to pay employee benefits—a win-win for both!
Nursing professionals nationwide use Nursa to find local, high-paying per diem jobs. If you’re a facility looking for per diem nurses, use the Nursa app to fill shifts three times faster.