State of the U.S. Nursing Shortage

While it is not making headlines like it was during the pandemic and directly after, the nursing shortage in the United States continues to persist. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that an additional 275,000 nurses would be needed over the period from 2020 to 2030. The American Hospital Association projected that a million nurses will leave the profession by the end of 2022 which suggests the need may actually be much greater. 

Why have nurses been leaving the profession? The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) surveyed nurses and uncovered the main reasons.

Nurses Exiting the Profession

The NCSBN found the following reasons why many nurses have left the profession:

  • An increase in their workload during the pandemic,
  • Feeling emotionally drained,
  • Feeling used up,
  • Feeling fatigued,
  • Feeling burned out, and
  • Feeling at the end of their rope “a few times a week” or “every day.”

According to the NCSBN survey, these reasons were cited most among nurses with 10 or fewer years of experience, which has contributed to an overall 3.3% decline in the U.S. workforce from 2022 – 2023. Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurses serving primarily in long-term care settings and caring for some of the nation’s most vulnerable patients have experienced a decline in their ranks by over 33,000 since the pandemic began.

Other Contributing Factors

In addition to these reasons, there are other factors involved in the nursing shortage. One prominent factor is our nation’s aging population. It has significantly increased demand for healthcare services and further heightened demands on nurses. Another factor is the limited resources of nursing schools in terms of qualified faculty; which is limiting enrollment efforts and development of nursing educational programs. These factors, as well as the nurses’ reasons require real solutions to mitigate the continuance of the nursing shortage.

Measures to Address the Nursing Shortage

While challenging, there are steps that can be taken to help alleviate the nursing shortage. Regarding nursing education, the government must prioritize funding for nursing schools and other academic settings which provide nursing degrees so that they can expand enrollment, recruit more qualified instructors, and create more robust nursing programs. For their part, healthcare institutions and providers need to embrace today’s advanced technologies to help streamline nurses’ workloads, improve productivity, and ease the heavy burden on nurses which is causing their mass exodus from the field. They also must take measures to improve working conditions in the organizations, from reducing nurse-to-patient ratios and improving compensation to facilitating more flexible and family friendly work schedules. Additionally, they need to consider new staffing options in addition to temporary staffing. For example, there are now programs which provide cost-effective solutions to address the nursing shortage.

One such option is clinical remote nursing engagement solutions which provide experienced, U.S.-based RNs and Medical Assistants to assist with various remote functions. These range from monitoring the electronic medical record system for incoming messages, reviewing lab results, and processing medication refills, to scheduling appointments, triaging patients, completing telephonic assessments, providing patient referrals and patient education, and providing clinical advice based on established symptom protocols and evidence-based guidelines. In addition to help alleviate the healthcare system’s labor pains, healthcare institutions and providers improve their patients’ quality of care, gain enhanced patient experiences, improve operational efficiencies, and achieve workforce savings.