As one would expect, the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge blow to the nursing labor market. That’s because nurses make up the largest healthcare professional group in the US, according to The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).
Therefore, a disruption in the supply of this critical healthcare component poses a major threat to the nation's health. In fact, the latest breaking healthcare news is still how COVID-19 was among the greatest challenges to the profession of nursing. Notably, and as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, massive nursing shortages were reported in breaking healthcare news across the country. Consequently, most hospitals were overwhelmed by many new patient admissions in addition to an already existing healthcare burden from chronic conditions. Moreover, physical and mental burnout and stress among nurses were common due to the long working hours and workplace pressure.
Fast-forward to today, and the healthcare news industry seems to be reporting less about how pandemic stress is affecting nurses. Yet, one major question still lingers today: How have the past two years strained the healthcare industry? Read on to find out how nurses are handling post-pandemic pressure, and what new obstacles they are facing within their field.
The Current Nursing Labor Market: Yes, Nursing Shortages Are Still Here
Before the pandemic, nursing shortages were predicted based on its unique labor market. Unlike other labor markets, where greater job security and higher wages tend to attract and retain a steady workforce, the nursing labor market is countercyclical. In other words, the supply of nurses does not rise and fall with changes in the economy. Instead, the demand tends to increase with a rise in the population or demand for health services. Additionally, it is easier for nurses to leave and enter the market depending on their needs.
The current nursing labor market boasts a unique demographic, with over 70 percent of the workforce being married women. For this reason, nurses in this industry can sometimes pause their careers to take care of their families or even opt for more flexible terms, such as part-time or per diem employment. At the end of the day, there are many other factors beyond wage and job security that impact a nurse’s willingness to prefer specific working conditions to others.
So, What Are The Factors That Keep Nurses Going in a Stressful Work Environment?
A survey by McKinsey & Company shows that most nurses in the post-pandemic period admit that meaningful work is a major determinant of whether they leave their current job. Although the effects of the pandemic have significantly leveled off, an increasing number of nurses around the globe have expressed their interest in leaving direct patient care. Additionally, the report by McKinsey shows that about 28 to 38 percent of nurses from Japan, Singapore, the UK, and the US might leave their current direct patient care roles in the next 12 months. Ultimately, these statistics should provide insight into what private and public hospital employers should take into consideration when staffing both permanent and per diem nurses. That is to say, hospitals and medical facilities should strive for working conditions that foster positivity, and try to maintain an appropriately staffed facility at all times.
Why The Future Might Experience Even More Nursing Shortages
The reasons nurses are willing to stick to their current roles vary from one to another. However, the reasons some nurses might be unwilling to continue in their direct patient care roles can range from the risk of infection to experiencing a traumatic wave of mass deaths in hospitals.
In addition to post-trauma experienced by nurses who worked on the front lines during the COVID-pandemic, one recent healthcare news story about a Tennessee nurse who accidentally committed a fatal medication error has left nurses shaken up around the country. RaDonda Vought who was convicted of homicide in 2017, admitted to accidentally administering the wrong medication to an elderly patient. Vought was stripped of her nursing license and found guilty of negligent homicide, but she will serve no jail time with a sentence of three years probation. As a result of her conviction, nurses from all over are now feeling the pressure that they too could be criminally liable for an accidental medication mix up.
What’s Next For Nurses?
With the current trend of nurses leaving direct patient care, there will always be a looming nursing shortage. Such nursing shortages are also a major trigger for nursing strikes around the country. Also, since the US significantly relies on nurse migration to counter shortages, the post-pandemic period has experienced a decreased nurse migration into the US, complicating the labor market even more. And while Information from some healthcare news might be inaccurate, studies continue to show that nurses are in fact leaving the workforce to join different organizations on new terms, or taking a small break before returning to the profession. Consequently, there is a need for hospitals and stakeholders in the health sector to pay more attention to making nursing more meaningful to mitigate a potential crisis in the near future.
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