Nursing is a crucial part of healthcare and accounts for the largest number of healthcare workers among all healthcare-related professions. According to the World Health Statistics Report, there are approximately 29 million nurses and midwives globally, with 3.9 million of those individuals in the United States. However, since the covid-19 pandemic and with increasing nursing shortages, the percentage of a nursing shortage around the world is becoming a big problem. A 2021 study revealed that 9.5 percent of nurses in the study had left their current position, and around 17 percent of nurses considered leaving. Of those who left their jobs, 31.5 percent reported burnout as a reason.
What is Nursing Shortage?
A nursing shortage occurs when the demand for nurses available outweighs the number of nurses available to work. Therefore, as the current nursing shortage deepens, the pressure will intensify for nursing programs to increase the enrolment capacity to fill these vacancies.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nursing shortages have been previously solved. However, with the current situation where many nurses are near retirement age, the increasing number of older adults with chronic disease, and the inability to train nurses fast enough, the nursing shortage crisis is growing like never before (WHO source).
Challenges That Cause Nursing Shortage.
There are many factors that contribute to the increased nursing shortage around the world. Some of the major causes of nursing shortage are namely:
- Increased rate of nurse job turnover/Retiring nurses or those choosing to leave the profession – many nurses have quit their jobs which creates a shortage of nurses in healthcare facilities.
- The aging population necessitates increasing the level of care patients require. – increasing number of aging populations causes the need to have more nurses to care for them. Additionally, the majority of the nurses are baby boomers meaning they are likely to retire soon leading to a shortage of nurses.
- A nursing faculty shortage capping pre-licensure admission capacity
- Nursing burnout.
- Pandemics such as the covid-19 pandemic led to an increased number of patients. This leads to stress to the small number of available nurses who may choose to quit work due to overworking.
5 Creative Ways of Solving Nursing Shortage.
The following are 5 strategies that can be used to solve the nursing shortage crisis in the healthcare sector:
- Improve and simplify the hiring process.
- Use data to drive the hiring process.
- Provide resources to prevent burnout.
- Create opportunities for leadership and career paths development.
Nursing advocacy organizations can assist generate changes in healthcare legislation that will address the nursing shortage and the needs of nurses. Legislation governing the number of nurses required in healthcare institutions, for example, might enhance nurse education and recruitment. Improved staffing methods can also help to recruit new nurses by creating a supportive environment for current nurses.
Improve and simplify the hiring process.
According to DHI Group data, the average time to hire in the healthcare profession is roughly 49 days. Having said that, using simple, applicant-friendly solutions, recruitment tech platforms may substantially shorten days to hire from over a month to less than a week. Recruiters may utilize these technologies to move prospects smoothly through the application, screening, and interview processes, allowing them to make recruits as fast as feasible.
The following are some of the ways technology can help you to improve and simplify the hiring process:
- A hiring platform may help you to publish job posts across a wide range of job boards and social sites so candidates can easily find, share, and apply for career opportunities.
- Technology helps to simplify the application process and cut out complicated paperwork so you don’t lose talent along the way.
- With the use of technology, human resources in a healthcare facility can automatically schedule interviews and create offer letters and onboarding packets for a more efficient hiring process.
- The human resources department can validate licenses and credentials fast so you can send your offer ahead of the competition.
Use data to drive the hiring process.
It’s not only about the right technology platform when it comes to effective recruiting. It also entails leveraging data to better understand your local market and make smart recruiting decisions. Data-driven choices enable your team members to assess the efficacy of your recruiting strategies, allowing you to target ideal prospects even when they are few.
Thus, healthcare facilities should prioritize data collection tactics at all stages of their recruiting process, from job posting through onboarding. Additionally, they should also track workforce trends, job search referral sources, and monitor job post-performance and candidate conversion rates.
Additionally, healthcare facilities can also incorporate the use of follow-ups and surveys to solicit feedback from interviews and new hires about their recruitment strategies. These tactics can also help you obtain insight into why candidates choose your facility over another, so you can be better prepared for the next round of hiring. Consider a post-interview check-in with applicants who declined a job offer so you may inquire why they made their decision and what they thought of your hiring process.
Provide resources to prevent burnout.
Nurse burnout refers to a state of mental and physical exhaustion that can annihilate the joy out of your nursing career, friendships, and family interactions. The following are some of the ways to prevent burnout:
- Taking time to exercise is not only good for our physical health but also for our emotional boost.
- Eating a balanced diet.
- Practicing good sleeping habits.
- Asking for help.
Additionally, encouraging teamwork in nursing departments can help to reduce burnout rates in the hospitals.
Create opportunities for leadership and career paths development.
Nursing careers can be enhanced by taking on leadership responsibilities in healthcare organizations. Experienced nurses in these jobs may teach and educate younger nurses, as well as show fresh graduates a feasible career path. Additionally, nurse leaders can design benefit packages and employment tools that will help recruit and keep new nurses.
The following are reasons why young people should consider becoming a nurse.
There are several benefits that people in the nursing profession get. These benefits include:
- A good salary.
- Having a sense of purpose.
- Travel opportunities in the case of travel nursing career path.
- Finding your niche.
- Room for advancement.
A good salary.
Although the salary for nurses varies with several factors, the average minimum salary in a nursing profession is still considered favorable to some other professions. These factors that affect the salary of a nursing profession include:
- Level of education/type of nurse. (LPN, ADN-RN, BSN-RN, MSN)
- geographic location
- job status (full-time or as needed)
Having a sense of purpose.
Nursing is a not a career you can do well in if you are in it for the money alone. You are by a person’s side when they are at their most vulnerable, and you provide assistance to families in crisis circumstances. Additionally, sometimes you will have to work longer shifts, make difficult decisions and constantly in high-stress situations. This can be draining which leads to burnout for many nurses who choose to quit their jobs. Thus, to succeed in a nursing career, you have to view nursing not as a profession but an art. You have to be motivated every day and have personal nursing career goals in order to provide the best quality of nursing care to your patients.
Nursing is a flexible career with several scheduling choices.
For example, if you work in outpatient treatment, your schedule will most likely be more consistent – 4 or 5 days each week for around 8 hours at a time. Additionally, a nurse who is working in acute and long-term hospitals or residential institutions typically works long hours in order to limit the number of caregivers required for each patient. This is known as continuity of care. Furthermore, longer shifts might help reduce errors committed during the patient handoff from one nurse to another.
On the other hand, if you are a nurse who wants to have more flexibility in his/her scheduled day, there is an option for you. You can choose to work 12-hour shifts work 3 days each week, allowing a few days at work followed by several days off. The downside of working these longer shifts is that they are draining and may lead to a decrease in alertness or focus in your work. It may also cause problems balancing your work life and home life.
Travel opportunities in the case of travel nursing career path.
If your specialty is in high demand in your region, or if you have a strong desire to travel, there are several chances for travel nursing jobs.
Contract assignments are frequent in the healthcare industry. This is due to the fact that insufficient staffing numbers might result in patient injury and hazardous care. Hospitals must ensure that they have adequate staff to care for all of their patients, even if regular personnel depart unexpectedly or take medical or maternity leave.
There are several agencies that assist nurses in finding travel employment that matches their skills and interests. Travel contracts typically last approximately 13 weeks and might be based in your neighborhood or on the other side of the planet.
Finding your niche.
Many young people are scared to enter into the nursing profession because of the false notions that you must work 12-hour shifts in a hospital. This is not usually the case since there are many opportunities in this nursing field. Some of the opportunities in the nursing field include:
- bedside nursing
- outpatient nursing
- telehealth nursing
- nursing education
- Functional nursing.
- nursing administration
- legal nursing
- nurses consulting for the health insurance industry
- school nursing
- long-term care
- home-based nursing
If you would like to specialize in any of the opportunities above, you can choose amongst the following specialties:
- general medicine and family practice
- critical care
- obstetrics and gynecology
- geriatric care
- long-term care
Room for advancement.
Generally, the majority of nurses begin their careers with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. A nursing certificate typically takes 3 to 4 years to complete. Nursing education is intended to help students grow in their careers.
You can kickstart your nursing career by having a certificate and finding a job as a nurse assistant. Once you begin your career, you can choose among the following advancements:
- the licensed practical nurse (LPN)
- registered nurse with an associate’s degree
- registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree
- nursing with a master’s degree or certification in a specialty
- doctorates in nursing practice
- advanced practice nursing
- nurse practitioner
Most importantly, you should keep in mind that a majority of the health systems offer reimbursement for continued education as well.
Duties of a nurse practitioner.
The following are some of the responsibilities of a nurse practitioner:
- ordering diagnostic testing including blood tests and X-rays
- making treatment plans
- carrying out essential medical procedures
- collecting and documenting patient medical histories diagnosing medical problems, traumas, and acute sickness
- writing drug prescriptions
- patient education about medical diseases and remedies
Problems that may arise due to the nursing shortage crisis.
As we have seen, nurse practitioners are responsible for handling nursing caregiving duties in a healthcare facility. Thus, the shortage of nurses may lead to the following challenges in a healthcare facility:
- Increased patient mortality rates.
- Insufficient nursing staff in a healthcare facility.
- Increased nurse burnout rates.
- Provision of low-quality of nursing care.
- High expenditures by healthcare facilities to acquire nurses.
Increased patient mortality rates.
Increased patient mortality is one of the major concerns of the nursing shortage crisis. This is because patients are often neglected or overlooked due to the available nurses being overworked. In fact, several studies have shown possible links between understaffing of healthcare facilities with higher death rates.
Shortage of nursing staff in a healthcare facility.
Patients have to endure a longer stay in the healthcare facilities and are more likely to re-admit owing to issues with their experience due to a lack of adequate nursing personnel. There is also an increase in wait times for those who require emergency care. These effects of understaffing of healthcare facilities have a tremendous impact on the quality of care for patients across the country.
Increased nurse burnout rates.
Burnout is a cause as well as a symptom of the nursing shortage. Nurses are put under more strain and stress when nursing units are understaffed. Burnout can occur fast as a result of the emotional and physical toll of this stress. There are many effects of stress in nursing that have adverse impacts on the quality of care provided to patients.
Provision of low-quality of nursing care.
When healthcare institutions lack the necessary nurse personnel, patients must wait longer. Nurses are frequently harried and agitated while visiting more patients. This can reduce patient satisfaction and have a detrimental impact on patient outcomes. When there is an adequate number of nurses on staff, patient care, and safety increase. Additionally, understaffing healthcare facilities may lead to , medication and other care delivery errors.
High expenditures by healthcare facilities to acquire nurses.
Healthcare firms have grown competitive in recruiting nurses and giving them a fair compensation in order to keep up with demand. Hospitals now give sign-on incentives, improved benefit packages, and pay nearly twice as much for an hourly nurse as they did previously. In short, to compensate for the absence of workers throughout their shifts, hospitals have boosted overtime compensation which means high expenditures on acquiring nursing staff. This may also increase the cost of accessing healthcare services.
We have seen that advocacy, using technology to improve and simplify the hiring process, and utilizing data to drive the hiring process are some of the creative ways to solve the nursing shortage crisis. In short, if we need to solve this nursing shortage problem, we must take care of our current nurse workers while still motivating young people to pursue a nursing-related profession.