Nursing is experiencing one of the worst crises in its history. The nursing shortage causes stress for overworked professionals and worsens patient care. Solutions to the nursing shortage are desperately needed, as gaps in staffing are predicted to worsen in the coming years.
Many people think the pandemic is the main cause of the shortage, but many other factors have combined to put nursing at a critical crossroads. The pandemic, the aging population, retiring nurses, and burnout all contribute to understaffing.
The pandemic has caused extensive stress and burnout for nurses, leading to increased turnover. Nurses caring for COVID patients experience excessive fatigue, lessened quality of care, and a greater intention to leave their jobs. It is so bad that 90% of nurses have considered leaving within the next year. Sick nurses and stressed nurses have helped to create the nursing shortage.
80,000 nurses left their careers in 2020 due to reaching retirement age, and this will increase the nursing shortage as the nursing population ages out. There are currently insufficient nursing students to fill their roles.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 194,000 nursing positions will open each year over the next 10 years, making nursing one of the top careers to pursue.
As the Baby Boomer generation ages, they will need more care and more specialized care. As people live longer, the number living with chronic diseases is also greater, and they need special care as well. More nurses are required to fill these caregiver roles.
Because the causes of the nursing shortage are varied, the solutions need to come from all areas of healthcare. Nursing schools, hospitals, and staff must work together to fill in the current gaps and plan for the increased need for nurses in the future. One of the key solutions is retaining nurses and reducing the high turnover rate.
53% of nurses are frustrated because they are prevented from the actual job of nursing. They spend much of their time filling out forms manually. In addition, a lack of communication between departments means frustration in trying to care for patients. Computerizing their workload and better communication would relieve stress and burnout, and help retain nurses.
In a nationwide survey, only 19% of nurses under 35 felt emotionally supported by their workplace. 47% of those under 25 rated themselves as not emotionally healthy, and 63% of nurses under 35 stated they were considering leaving the profession within the coming year.
Young nurses especially need a workplace where they feel safe enough to talk about stress and burnout. Older nurses and supervisors can function as sounding boards and advisors, as well as help prevent overwork and long shifts.
The Journal of Advanced Nursing suggests that nurses be proactive in their efforts to combat stress and burnout, and find solutions to the nursing shortage. Travel nursing offers the opportunity to go where the need is greatest and your specialty is in short supply.
Travel nurse agencies, for example, match nurses to hospitals according to specialty and desired schedule. Nurses can work for as little as 6 weeks or as long as 12 months at locations around the country. They will have the chance to meet new people, gain knowledge, and plan their work around vacations – not the other way around.
Strategically using travel nurses to fill in where the nursing shortage is causing the biggest problems helps everyone. Short-staffed institutions can take a breath with an influx of new nurses. New staff also means fewer long shifts and stress for the nurses already working there.
We will not solve the nursing shortage overnight, but we can take steps now to help reduce the workload and stress for current nurses and healthcare workers with a pool of travel nurses ready to see new parts of the country and help their colleagues at the same time.
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