Over the past two years, nurses have faced tremendous challenges which continue to impact their physical and mental health. It’s true that rates of job dissatisfaction increased among nurses during COVID-19, but it also existed well before the pandemic. As a result, some nurses have simply had enough.
Data from surveys collected in March 2021 show burnout and stress were prevalent among half of respondents. Additionally, 21% of those surveyed reported going to work angry. In practice environments where PPE was in short supply, 48% reported that they were considering leaving healthcare altogether.
While some people view this as a crisis, others see opportunities to rise to new challenges. Senior nursing leaders often describe the innovation nurses have used in caring for COVID-19 patients. But union members tell a different story, noting that many nurses are discouraged and are not receiving support from higher levels of management.
It’s estimated that approximately 5% of hospital nurses left their positions since the pandemic began. This has important implications for hospital administrators and others, since 56% of hospitals surveyed before the pandemic reported insufficient nursing staff to provide safe patient care.
Are we facing a nursing shortage?
It’s anticipated that the nursing workforce will grow by 9% to 3,356,800 in the year 2030. And although enrollment in BSN programs increased by 5.1% in 2019, there still aren’t enough nurses to meet the growing demand. According to a survey by the Association of Colleges of Nursing, over 80,000 qualified BSN applicants have been turned away from nursing school due to budgetary constraints, lack of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, and clinical instructors.
But some people disagree that there is an actual nursing shortage. In the United States, more than 175,000 nurses graduate every year. And while some believe more nurses should be trained, others think hospitals should learn how to better manage the workforce. Some have suggested bolstering the workforce through free or very low-cost community college programs. Then, a nurses’ employer could invest in their pursuit of a higher-level degree.
Nursing’s catch-22 future
Many hospitals won’t hire new graduate nurses because they don’t have sufficient experience. But those same facilities also avoid investing in new nurses. Successful corporations often invest up to 20% of revenue back into their employees, while many hospitals invest only a fraction of this back into the workforce. Many hospitals continue to rely on just-in-time staffing, which does not help them hire and retain good nurses.
Healthcare facilities will likely continue to use some of the innovations, such as telehealth, that stemmed from the pandemic. And some hospitals have developed proactive, voluntary, incentivized programs to help with staffing problems. According to the report, this means that nurses will continue to have the opportunity to make good money while working independently and autonomously.
- AJN, American Journal of Nursing: American Journal of Nursing February 2022 - Volume 122 - Issue 2 - p 18-20 doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000820536.23909.d7