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The Healthcare Staffing Shortage in America Today

Nurse wearing scrubs and mask.

In a post earlier this year, we talked about the growing nursing shortage. Since then, budget cuts, early retirement and  COVID-19 vaccine mandates have put the Healthcare community further into crisis mode. In this article, we will dig a little deeper into the healthcare staffing shortage faced nationwide. 

Here are some daunting national statistics:

Baby Boomers With Health Issues

The nursing workforce simply isn’t large enough for those requiring care. One reason – baby boomers are starting to experience acute and chronic health issues.

The National Council on Aging estimates that nearly 85% have at least one chronic disease and 60% have at least two or more. Analysts fear there will simply be too many patients not only for nurses to handle, but for an entire health care system.

Lack of Resources

Nursing schools are overloaded with applicants, but are finding it difficult to get in due to the lack of resources in nursing programs. A report showed that more than 80,000 qualified applicants were turned away due to the lack of nursing faculty, clinical preceptors, classroom space, clinical sites, and budget issues. 

Budget Constraints

The healthcare system is facing pressure to keep costs down. As a result, they’re increasing the nurse-to-patient ratio and cutting pensions and benefits.

Increasing the nurse-to-patient ratio leaves the potential for less-than-average care and studies have proven when nurses are stretched to their limit, errors increase. Patients are given wrong meds, increased falls, and pressure ulcers occur more frequently due to nonmovement. Nurse burnout, especially those having to continually care for COVID patients are starting to cave under the pressure. They are experiencing anxiety, depression, stress, and loneliness causing them to take time off. The pandemic has caused 92% of nurses to consider leaving with nearly half saying it’s because there isn’t enough staff.

Hospitals have started to cut pensions and benefits, causing healthcare workers to go on strike. Due to decreased workers, facilities are forced to bring in travel nurses, heavily increasing payroll costs.

National Crisis

In early September, The American Nurses Association (ANA) asked the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the nursing shortage a national crisis due to overwhelmed health systems and staff burnout. Mississippi has seen a decrease of 2,000 nurses in 2021, Tennessee hospitals have 1,000 fewer staff compared to pre-pandemic numbers, both of which have needed to call in the National Guard. Texas has employed 2,500 nurses from outside the state, while Louisiana had over 6,000 open positions across the state before the delta variant even hit. 

The ANA has recommended getting hospitals, nurses, doctors, and government officials together to discuss:

  • Addressing nurses’ fatigue and mental wellbeing
  • Strategies to retain the current nursing workforce
  • Adopting payment methods that recognize the value nurses bring to patient care
  • Removing barriers to practice
  • Addressing the resource issue for qualified nursing students
  • Building a resilient workforce

There’s no real solution yet, but nurse managers can tell their staff to:

  • Help fellow nurses when they’re behind
  • Involve UAPs (Unlicensed Assistive Personnel) wherever possible
  • Let you know when they’ve hit the wall so you can get help from other units
  • Engage family members to help with things such as feeding

If you are in need of additional nurses, check out Career Start’s Employer Services. We’ll get you the perfect person for that open position. As Master Service Providers (MSP) Career Start can give you complete visibility into your flexible workforce while improving order fulfillment and HR regulatory compliance.

Posted on October 21, 2021. Categorized as .

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