Delivering high quality patient care has become increasingly difficult for hospitals and health systems, which are experiencing an alarming exodus of nursing staff.
The American Nurses Association recently urged the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the country’s critical nursing shortage a national crisis. The ongoing shortage — a problem since 2012 — has only been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Hospitals and health systems are responding by enhancing their recruiting efforts, offering signing bonuses, and implementing an all-hands-on-deck approach to patient care. They’re also exploring innovative telehealth solutions to increase efficiencies and free up nurse time across healthcare facilities.
Read on for our monthly news roundup exploring the causes of the nursing shortage and how hospitals are responding.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the nursing shortage, it didn’t actually cause it. America has been facing a critical nursing shortage since 2012 — and it’s expected to last until 2030. A combination of factors is driving the shortage, including a growing population of older adults, retirement, burnout, and an increased demand for healthcare due to more accessible health insurance.
Association of American Medical Colleges
To combat the nursing shortage, hospitals and health systems must innovate to maintain high quality patient care. For some hospitals, that means offering hefty signing bonuses to recruit new nurses and raising salaries to keep existing staff. For others, it means asking physicians and students to step in and perform duties typically performed by nurses, as well as tapping non-clinical staff to fill gaps such as delivering meals or transporting patients.
The New Republic
Given the overwhelming challenges of the last two years, it may seem like the COVID pandemic is to blame for the nursing shortage. While many nurses do cite recent burnout for leaving or changing jobs, there’s more to the story. Nurses say that hospital policies around staffing and productivity, as well as pay cuts all contribute to the decision to step away from healthcare jobs.
Hospitals across the country are desperate for nurses, with many offering signing bonuses or hiring students before they even graduate. However, the pipeline of new nurses is becoming narrower. The pandemic forced many schools to curtail training programs, making it harder for students to get the hands-on experience to graduate. A lack of instructors and students’ financial strain have also contributed to the problem.