Understanding and Navigating the Nurse Shortage

Why is there a nurse shortage?

It’s no secret that the healthcare world is experiencing a shortage of one of its main resources: nurses. While it’s tempting to think of COVID-19 as the key driver of the nurse shortage, that’s not the whole reason. The high stress of working during a pandemic has certainly exacerbated the problem, but the nurse shortage was already a concern well before COVID-19 hit the United States and will likely continue to be a concern for years to come. There are a number of factors driving this shortage, including a retirement boom, lack of educators, and of course, burnout.

5 Factors Impacting the Nursing Shortage | HealthStaff.org

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The retirement boom

The retirement boom among older nurses has created thousands of job openings in nursing. The massive increase in job openings has coincided with an increase in the number of patients seeking healthcare, and there simply aren’t enough new nurses entering the workforce each year to keep pace with these rising rates.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the RN workforce to grow by an average of 30,000 new nurses per year from 2019–2029, which is nowhere near enough to meet the Bureau’s projection of 175,900 openings each year over the same time period. Studies have projected that 1.2 million more nurses will be needed by 2030 in order to keep pace with this high demand, creating a nurse shortage.

Shortage of nursing educators

The nurse shortage is a big enough problem on its own, but there is an underlying factor that has exacerbated the issue: a shortage of educators. Nursing schools across the country are experiencing a faculty shortage, which limits the number of nursing students schools can accept.

A report from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing found that in 2019, U.S. nursing schools turned down 80,407 qualified applicants for nursing programs. The main reasons were insufficient numbers of faculty members, not enough clinical sites or classroom space, and budget constraints. A separate survey found that nursing schools not only needed to create more faculty positions to accommodate demand, but that they were struggling to fill existing faculty vacancies.

Job stress and clinician burnout

Nursing is a high-stress profession under the best of circumstances, and burnout is definitely a driving force behind the nurse shortage. Nurses not only have to deal with an increasing workload, but they have to do it while also dealing with human suffering and loss of life on a regular basis. On top of that, because nurses interact directly with patients more than any other provider, they are at the highest risk of workplace violence of any healthcare professional, causing many nurses to discontinue practicing. Nurses universally agree that theirs is an incredibly rewarding profession but can be an unforgiving one.

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The impact of the nurse shortage

Patients and their families are definitely feeling the impact of the nurse shortage, as it affects the quality of care they receive. At the heart of it, a nurse shortage means there are fewer nurses caring for an increasing number of patients. Fewer nurses means a higher risk of adverse events that are commonly associated with overworked and under-supported nursing staff within a healthcare organization including: medication errors, negligence, even patient death.

Solutions for the nurse shortage

Having a better understanding of the problem is an important first step toward solving it, but what can actually be done to reduce the nurse shortage in healthcare organizations? Here are a few key solutions that could help bring this problem under control.

Strategic workplace accommodations

It’s an inescapable fact that nurses are overworked. 83% of nurses cited poor work/life balance as the main reason that hospitals and healthcare organizations are losing good nurses. Healthcare organizations and leaders may not be able to do much to reduce nurse workloads, but there are things they can do to help make life a little easier for overworked nurses in the meantime.

Healthcare leaders should consider implementing strategic workplace accommodations to help nurses more effectively manage job stress. These accommodations can vary depending on the specific needs of an organization’s nursing staff, but examples include allowing nurses additional break time during their shifts to de-stress or holding group sessions to talk about mental health . Healthcare organizations can also create physical space where nurses can go to take a breather when things get hectic.

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Workforce solutions & flexibility

Additional flexibility also goes a long way toward restoring work/life balance for an organization’s nursing staff. The easiest way for leaders to provide that flexibility is to actually listen when nurses voice concerns about high patient loads or feeling overwhelmed and do everything they can to reduce those stressors. Effective staffing, technology, and workforce management can be a great way to build in this flexibility without increasing the workload for other nurses. It is imperative that we make our clinical settings less stressful in order to remediate the nurse shortage.

Healthcare Predictions for 2023

2023 is right around the corner, and it is anticipated that it will usher in new challenges and focuses in medicine. Not only will technological advancements continue to enhance the way patients are treated, the way organizations treat their clinicians will need to change as well. No doubt, it will be a year of significant change for healthcare workers and administrators around the world.

Prediction #1: AI Will Continue to Gain Traction

Artificial intelligence will continue to drive healthcare innovation in 2023, and care providers (as well as clinicians) will need to seek training and education to adjust to this quickly evolving landscape. One exciting new way artificial intelligence will support doctors and nurses is by revolutionizing the capture and analysis of surgical video. Touch Surgery™ Enterprise, the first AI-powered surgical video management and analytics platform for the operating room, is on the cutting edge of the AI-in-healthcare revolution. Studies show that video analysis can improve surgeon performance, and Touch Surgery Enterprise makes it easier to connect operating rooms to the cloud to seamlessly record and upload video and uncover new insights. The device uses AI to automatically upload surgical videos without the need for USB drives, DVDs or encrypted drives so surgeons, surg techs, and nurses can access and analyze surgical videos more easily. In 2023, healthcare workers will see the implementation of more technologies like this to enhance the quality of diagnostics and patient care.

Contributed: The power of AI in surgery | MobiHealthNews

Prediction #2: COVID’s Impact Will Continue

In 2023, especially during the winter, COVID will continue to make its way through the United States and will remain a part of the national healthcare landscape. We are already seeing full ERs in many cities due to COVID surges, and while the majority of the country is adapting to “post-COVID-life,” nurses are still feeling the burden of cases rising this season along with the flu and RSV. Due to this, healthcare providers will continue to focus on the downstream effects of COVID, and we will see a push toward preventative healthcare and chronic disease.

On the bright-side, COVID-mediated innovations in the healthcare system, like the broad adoption of telehealth, will be here to stay with increased resources to support it.

Biweekly confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people, Dec 20, 2022

Source: ourworldindata.org

Prediction #3: Healthcare Organizations Will Focus on Solving Clinician Burnout

In 2023, healthcare organizations will be forced to look at the underlying causes for burnout in their systems. They will hopefully realize what many of us have known for a long time: that being a worker on the frontlines of today’s healthcare landscape is taking a toll on the mental health of clinicians. And because of the heightened need to retain employees, healthcare organizations will begin to fix it. This may look like: promoting and honoring clinicians in an authentic way, making significant changes to the daily life of clinicians with a renewed focus on self-care, providing more flexible scheduling options, and promoting equity in benefits across the board for employees. Acknowledging that clinicians are the product in most healthcare organizations, there will hopefully be a significant shift in focus on the person rather than the profit.

Provider team burnout: undoing the human and organizational damage | Healthcare IT News


While the expansion of technology and impact of the pandemic are certainly central to the future of healthcare, I believe that the most important focus for healthcare organizations will be on enhancing the lives of their clinicians. Nurses are at the heart of healthcare administration, and it will become more and more important to boost clinician retention and reduce burnout.

2022 Healthcare Predictions and Trends

It has been another challenging year for the world’s healthcare workers. COVID-19 has compounded the emotional, physical, and mental strain on nurses who were already reporting burnout. The cracks are beginning to show: Healthcare workers are now retiring at a faster rate than anticipated, while demand for them is set to increase in coming years.

However, new technology is coming to the rescue for clinicians everywhere. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Telehealth, and precision medicine technologies are three main players to watch in the healthcare world in 2022 and beyond.

2022 Healthcare Prediction #1: AI Will Help Reduce Clinician Burnout

Artificial intelligence is going to be a game-changer in 2022. AI works by gathering and analyzing data and churning out actionable insights to lighten the workload of doctors and nurses. For example, AI-enhanced software can help reduce the steps involved in imaging a patient by quickly identifying abnormalities in a scan. It can even ease the administrative burden on charge nurses by managing the flow of patients to an emergency room. This frees up clinicians to focus on their core mission: treating and caring for their patients.

Read more: https://www.healthitanswers.net/big-data-analytics-and-ai-could-take-center-stage-in-2022/


Prediction #2: Telehealth Will Continue to Help More Patients Get Treated

Regardless of what happens with the pandemic this year, the shift to virtual care and care-at-home will continue to accelerate. Beyond telehealth visits, 2022 will see increased adoption of hospital-at-home and remote patient management because healthcare providers have seen how feasible it is, not to mention the cost savings. Most importantly, patients prefer  to be at home instead of a hospital and all stakeholders are realizing that optimal outcomes can be achieved outside of a medical facility. In addition, telehealth allows healthcare workers to treat patients who may be in rural areas where the nearest hospital is over 50 miles away, as well as immunocompromised people who do not feel safe in clinic or hospital waiting rooms due to risk of infection.

Read more: https://blog.memd.me/2022-telehealth-outlook-virtual-care/

Prediction #3: Precision Medicine Will Revolutionize Healthcare Delivery

For decades, treatment for several diseases and genetic disorders was a one-size-fits-all process. In the case of cancer, patients underwent surgery to remove a tumor, and then endured several rounds of chemotherapy or radiation to kill cancer cells. But nowadays,  it is almost unthinkable to treat cancer patients without accounting for their individual genes and specific disease. That is why nearly all cancer drugs that are currently in development have tests that allow clinicians to quickly diagnose if a tumor has a specific genetic change or biomarker that is targeted by the drug. Thanks to technological advances, especially within genomics, clinicians will increasingly harness precision medicine in 2022 to treat diseases and disorders based on an individual’s genetic fingerprint, environment, and lifestyle. The solutions currently in development are expected to radically change care delivery models and improve outcomes for generations to come.

Read more: https://baptisthealth.net/baptist-health-news/the-promise-of-precision-medicine-means-hope-for-cancer-patients/

2022 healthcare predictions MRI