Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Nursing Shortage Revisited
Nurse Shortages: 400,000 Nurses Needed
Nursing ShortagesNurse shortages have happened before. Ask anyone who was there in the 60’s, the 70’s or even the 80’s. The difference between this nursing shortage and nurse shortages of the past decades is that this nursing shortage will go on longer and be much harder to fix than previous nurse shortages. A number of experts and regulatory agencies are beginning to express deep concern over a number of alarming trends that are evident in the current nurse shortage. While demand for nurses is expected to continue to grow as an aging population begins to increase their need for expert healthcare the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that a shortage of nurse faculty is causing many colleges to turn applicants away. Nursing students are some of the most teacher and cost intensive as they require 1 instructor for every 8 students in the clinical setting. This high cost to student ratio has many colleges and institutions reluctant to commit to the higher level of funding required. The thinking is short term but predictable. To read the complete fact sheet click here

Nurse Shortages linked to sentinel events
An even more alarming statistic comes from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAHO) white paper “Healthcare at the crossroads” JCAHO states that 24% of the 1609 sentinel events reported to it (by March 2002) were the direct result of staffing shortages. A sentinel event is an unanticipated event that leads to death, injury or permanent loss of function. That translates into 386 people who died, were injured or suffered permanent loss of function simply because there were not enough nurses on duty; a grim reminder of the true cost of the nurse shortages.

Aging Population Requires more nurses... But we are aging too! Not only are our patients aging… but so are we. The average age of a nurse in 2010 will be 50. As the nursing workforce continues to age one estimate is that by the year 2010 over 50% of the nurses currently working will be eligible for retirement. Many of them will eagerly bail out of a worsening work situation.

20 Percent of us say we will leave nursing In recent surveys conducted by a number of organizations including the American Nurses Association and the American Federation of Teachers an alarming statistic reveals that approx 1 in 5 nurses is planning to leave nursing within the next five years.

400,000 Nurses Needed
CBS News in a recent 60 minutes episode stated that by the year 2020 we will have a shortage of 400,000 registered nurses. The US Department of Health and Human Services states that the nurse shortages predicted for 2007 were already being seen in the year 2000. Read the complete Health & Human Services RN Project

117,600 Registered Nurses don't work as licensed Nurses.
Of real significance is the fact that there are currently 490,000 registered nurses who are not working as nurses. 69% or 338,000 are over age 50. Only 7% of those not employed in nursing were actively seeking work as registered nurses. That means that approximately 24% (117,600) of the eligible nurses are choosing not to work as nurses.

Normal Supply and Demand factors don't work in nursing
What’s probably really alarming about the current nurse shortage is the fact that many employers don’t seem to be responding to the crisis in the typical marketplace driven manner. In a typical shortage of a special skill the market usually responds by increasing salaries and benefits. One look at the Information Technology explosion of the last several years shows the classic supply and demand earnings curve.
Yet, faced with comparable or worse registered nurse shortages the healthcare industry has responded by cutting registered nursing staff, increasing the use of unlicensed personnel and crying poverty and “market averages” as an excuse for keeping raises at or below the rate of inflation. The average nurses’ salary has seen no real increase in purchasing power from 1991 to 2000. An elementary school teacher has more wage potential and upward mobility than a registered nurse HHS RN Project

Why We Leave Nursing
When questioned why they are leaving the field of nursing many respondents site work related stress, abusive healthcare professionals (doctors primarily), inability to give quality care, forced overtime, poor working conditions, equipment and low wages as the primary contributors to burnout.
so, why am I posting this on my blog about travel nurses? Because there are some trends that suggest that for the next couple of decades the opportunity for travel nurse jobs is just going to get better. While the shortage is certainly causing some challenges for nurses it also is bringing an unheralded opportunity for nurses who are able and willing to think outside the box and to diversify themselves.


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Marshall Lebovits said...

The Wall Street Journal reported on 9/5 about nursing shortages and how as a result, the use of travel nurses is growing significantly. If you would like to read about how travel nurse staffing companies are dealing with the cash flow challenges, check out