What does it genuinely take to end America’s nursing shortage? Back in 1943, the United States literally subsidized the development of new nurses in response to the nursing shortage via the Bolton Act. As of today, there’s no pending legislation and there’s no Cadet Nurse Corp. Hospitals are stretched thin, tasked with recruiting nurses with clinical experience while many experienced nurses are either reaching the age of retirement or leaving the profession all together. There just aren’t enough nurses to go around. And according to the American Nurses Association, we still need one million nurses by 2022.
That may seem like a long time from now, but in reality, six years isn’t very much time; a bachelor’s in nursing takes four years. Someone can still become a nurse with an associates degree, but according to the Institute of Medicine, 80 percent of nurses will need a BSN by 2020. Even then, what about experience? Virtually every hospital hiring nurses requires at least a year or two of clinical experience.
“We do require that the staff member has clinical experience and that’s one of the challenges I think in the field of nursing,” said Director of Business Development Jane Russo, to Maya Holmes of KionRightNow.com, a local news station in California. Ms. Russo works for The Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice in Salinas, CA.
According to Russo, The Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice has enacted the same strategy to find and recruit qualified nurses as many other hospitals across the country. “Really strong employee benefits is a really strong hiring piece,” Russo said in the above article. That’s pretty common, along with hefty sign-on and retention bonuses.
But where are all the nurses, and why are so many nurses needed?
There are several answers to this question. The Silver Tsunami is a good place to start. “We, the baby boomers, of even my age are retiring within the next 10-15 years,” said Registered Nurse Diane Martin to Kion News. “So we’re going to need replacements for all those nurses.”
But there are other factors. Because of the lack of nurses, hospitals are obviously short-staffed and being short-staffed has serious ramifications. The two most important ones are the unsafe nurse-to-patient ratios that have statistically resulted in poor patient outcomes, and the burnout that’s happening as nurses leave the profession in response to worsening conditions. Doctor Thomas Paine, a contributor at KevinMD.com, wrote the following about his experience in the ER:
In almost a decade at my current job in a busy suburban ED, I have watched countless talented and experienced ER nurses come and go. At first, I asked them why they were leaving. Now, I ask them why they stayed as long as they did. Over the years, our ED has seen a drastic increase in acuity, a steady increase in volume, and a decrease in staffing levels. Is it any wonder that nurses leave after a few years in that environment?
So what is the endgame? What’s the solution to this personnel paradox? Sure, hospitals can partner with local nursing schools, they can offer hefty sign-on and retention bonuses, they can offer the most competitive benefits package, but that doesn’t solve their staffing issues right now. Therefore, administrators and hiring managers must get creative.
There’s a reason travel nursing has reached a 20-year high in demand. Travel nurses are experienced nurses who work for hospitals in 13-week increments before moving onto another location. These mobile healers are stepping in all over the country. The common misconception is that these nurses are very expensive. But the research says otherwise. The reality is, the modest usage of supplemental nurses is actually cost-effective strategy to address hospital short-term staffing needs.
That’s quite a surprise when you consider that travel nurses make more annually on average than their full-time peers. And that’s not the only reason nurses should consider spending some time on the road. A recent study revealed that travel nurses enjoy higher levels of satisfaction than full-time nurses.
If you’re a registered nurse and you’re tired of the same stressful conditions and inner-hospital politics, treat yourself. You are in demand and there’s opportunity virtually everywhere. Experience a different reality for nurses by traveling instead.