Causes and Solutions for the Nursing Shortage

By Matt Dufilho, Updated March 11, 2021

nursing shortage

Unless you live under a rock, you already know there is a serious nursing shortage in this country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics currently estimates a deficit of nearly one million nurses by the year 2022. Nursing shortages are not new, but this one is different from some of its predecessors. Previous shortages, like the one seen in 2001, were more about a lack of supply. In other words, fewer people were choosing to make nursing their career.

The cause of the current shortage is actually three-fold: an aging population, an aging workforce, and a limited supply of new nurses.

  • An Aging Population– The baby boomers are going into their golden years. It is estimated by between 2010 and 2030, one in every five people will be a senior citizen.
  • An Aging Workforce– As the population ages, so do the nursing staff. Approximately one-third of the current nursing workforce is 50 years or older.
  • A Limited Supply of New Nurses– There is a limit to the budgets and staff of nursing schools resulting in a bottleneck of graduating students. In other words, there are only so many new nurses entering the workforce each year and it’s not enough to cover the deficit created by those who will soon retire.

So, what can employers do to manage this escalating nursing shortage?

Short-Term Methods for Hospitals

Currently, employers are incorporating financial incentives into their hiring such on as sign-on bonuses, as well as offering financial rewards to encourage nurses to work more or bring in traveling nurses. These, of course, are short-term solutions at best; temporarily fixing the problems and at a high cost for the hospital.

Recruiting the Top Nursing Talent

Today, hospitals must focus must be on recruitment: finding ways to draw in the best prospects and keep them.

Administrators should begin by figuring out what separates their facility from all the other. In terms of facilities and technology, there is a relatively level playing field across the country, so what will make one employer stand out from all the others? It’s the culture that will appeal to the best nursing talent, and that means:

Culture can be an elusive concept, but it really boils down to a few basic things:

  • Transparency– An administration that is open and clear about what is happening in the facility, such as the logistics of the construction, the hospital’s finances, and its strategic goals. Providing this core information makes employees feel like they are part of the decision making process.
  • Appreciation– Going that extra mile to ensure employees feel appreciated for their work is a critical part of the culture, as well. This is true for every department from nursing to EVS.
  • Communication – This is the core component of establishing an enticing culture. Employees need to feel like the administration understands what they do and why. For nurses, the “why” will always be patient care and safety.

Creating a culture that supports, informs, and empowers its nursing staff to give the best care possible is what will separate one facility from another.