Potential Nursing Shortage Is a Major Workforce Concern

Potential Nursing Shortage Is a Major Workforce Concern Posted By:
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According to a national survey of more than 6000 acute and critical care nurses that was conducted by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), 66% of nurses have considered leaving the nursing workforce due to experiences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Many cited that the working conditions prior to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak were bad enough—stress from overstretched nurse-to-patient ratios, noncompetitive pay, and long hours were some of the reasons specified. A recent opinion written in an April issue of New England Journal of Medicine argues that the nursing workforce supply is not in shortage, rather, there is a shortage of healthcare environments offering safe and well-compensated conditions.

It is difficult to determine which shortage is truly affecting us—the current system of collecting and evaluating data on the status of our workforce is not accurate for real-time measures. Ironically, the Affordable Care Act had provisions within the bill to establish the National Health Care Workforce Commission to study and continually track workforces like nursing. However, Congress never funded this portion of the bill, so it has yet to be initiated.

Regardless of the specific data, it is clear that healthcare workers have been burdened by the ongoing pandemic. Some strategies being implemented by hospitals to retain workforces include paying out significant bonuses and providing incentives to recruit and retain nurses. Even still, of the respondents to the AACN survey, 92% feel their hospital workforce has been depleted during the pandemic and, consequently, anticipate that their hospital careers will be shorter than originally intended. It is unlikely that the United States healthcare system will be able to maintain current levels and standards of care without an ongoing supply of nurses. This is an alarming concern that needs to be addressed at all levels—federal, state, and local—so that we can maintain and increase the nursing workforce and provide safe, optimal care for patients.

References
  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Hear us out campaign reports nurses' COVID-19 reality. www.aacn.org/newsroom/hear-us-out-campaign-reports-nurses-covid-19-reality. Accessed April 25, 2022.
  • Costa DK, Friese CR. Policy strategies for addressing current threats to the US nursing workforce. NEJM. 2022;online ahead of print.
  • Stagier DO, et al. Registered nurse labor supply and the recession--are we in a bubble? NEJM. 2012;366:1463.

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Filed under: Practice Management/Career , NPs & PAs

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