The lack of nurses in the United States is a real crisis that hurts the healthcare industry and the people it serves. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the need for registered nurses (RNs) will grow by 12% between 2023 and 2029 and that by 2025, there will be a shortage of nearly 200,000 RNs. Other study suggested that there will be 200k to 450k Nursing shortage in America by 2025.
But here are the 20 reasons why the nursing shortage in America is a true crisis and may affect (already been affecting) the entire Healthcare Industry especially the delivery of Health Care and the outcome for patients.
1. Aging population
The population of the United States is aging, and the number of people over 65 is expected to double by 2060. This means greater demand for healthcare services, including nursing care.
The aging population may also contribute to the nurse shortage by decreasing the number of younger people entering nursing. This could be because younger people choose to work in other fields or because they think nursing isn't as appealing as it used to be.
2. Retirement of experienced nurses
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 50% of nurses are over 50 and will retire within the next decade. This means many nurses will retire when health care needs increase because the population is getting older. One study estimates that the nursing shortage in the United States will reach up to 1.2 million by 2030. Part of the reason for this shortage is that older nurses with a lot of knowledge and skills are leaving the field to retire. When these nurses retire, it leaves a gap in the workforce that is difficult to fill, especially since there need to be more new nurses being trained to replace them.
3. Decrease in nursing school enrollment: According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nursing school enrollment has declined since 2002. In 2002, there were 130,932 applicants to nursing programs, but by 2018, that number had dropped to 63,504. This decrease in nursing school enrollment has contributed significantly to the nurse shortage in America. The nurse shortage in America is a serious problem, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a shortage of over 1 million nurses by 2024. This shortage can have serious consequences, including increased patient morbidity and mortality, healthcare costs, and decreased patient satisfaction.
4. High workload
According to a report by the American Nurses Association, nurses in the United States work an average of 13-hour shifts and have a workload that is often much higher than their counterparts in other countries. One of the main reasons for this high workload is the increasing demand for healthcare services in the United States. With an aging population and a rise in chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, there is a greater need for nursing care. However, the number of nurses available to meet this demand has not kept pace with the growing demand, leading to a shortage of nurses and an increase in workload for those still working.
5. Lack of support
One of the main causes of the nurse shortage in America is a need for more government and employer support. According to the American Nurses Association, more than 3 million registered nurses are currently in the United States. Still, more than this is needed to meet the increasing demand for healthcare services. There is a need for support for nurses in terms of career advancement opportunities. Many nurses struggle to find leadership positions or opportunities for further education, leading to feelings of stagnation and a lack of job satisfaction.
6. Career and Family
According to a 2020 survey by the American Nurses Association, over 50% of nurses cited work-life balance as a major concern in their careers. This is because many nurses struggle to find the time and energy to balance their demanding work schedules with the demands of their personal lives, including raising children and caring for aging family members. One of the main reasons for this struggle is the need for adequate staffing and resources in the healthcare industry, which often results in nurses needing to be more relaxed and calmer. This leads to high burnout and job dissatisfaction, which can ultimately drive nurses to leave the profession or reduce their hours.
7. The negative perception of the nursing profession
The nursing profession is often portrayed negatively in the media, depicting nurses as overworked and underpaid. This negative portrayal can deter potential nurses from entering the profession, leading to a shortage of qualified candidates.
8. Lack of nurse faculty
As of 2019, there were approximately 3 million registered nurses in the United States, but there were only about 100,000 nursing faculty members. This means that for every 30 nurses, there is only one faculty member available to educate and train the next generation of nurses. One of the main reasons is the high demand for nurses, which leads to an increase in nursing school enrollment.
9. Lack of clinical experience
According to data from the American Nurses Association, more than 4 million registered nurses are currently in the United States. Still, only a fraction of them has the clinical experience to provide quality care to patients. This lack of experience is due to the high turnover rate among nurses causing a constant influx of new nurses who may need to gain the necessary skills and knowledge to provide the best care to patients.
10. Location Factor
According to data from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), there are shortages of nurses in rural areas, particularly in primary care and mental health. In 2021, HRSA designated 3,069 rural counties as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) for primary care, with a shortage of primary care providers including nurses. Similarly, 1,941 rural counties were designated as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas (MHPSAs), indicating a shortage of mental health providers including nurses.
11. High Education Cost
According to a report published by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the average cost of tuition for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at a public institution was $30,094 in the 2020-2021 academic year. For a private institution, the average cost was even higher at $41,084. These costs can be a significant financial burden for aspiring nurses, especially since many nursing students cannot work full-time while in school due to the program's demands.
12. Poor Working Conditions
According to the American Nurses Association, over 50% of nurses cited issues such as heavy workload, insufficient staffing levels, and inadequate breaks as major factors contributing to their decision to leave the profession or limit their hours. Additionally, the survey found that nurses working in understaffed environments reported higher burnout and job dissatisfaction levels.
13. Limited Benefits
One of the main benefits that nurses often cite as lacking is adequate pay. The average hourly wage for a registered nurse was $43, slightly above the national average for all occupations ($32.10). This pay discrepancy is further exacerbated by the fact that nurses often work long and irregular hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays.
14. Lack of recognition
A survey by the American Nurses Association in 2020 found that almost half of nurses felt their work was undervalued and not recognized. Additionally, a survey conducted by National Nurses United found that 82% of nurses felt that the public needs to fully understand and appreciate the crucial role that nurses play in the healthcare system.
15. Shortage of nursing homes
One major contributing factor to the nurse shortage in America is the shortage of nursing homes. According to data from the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, more than 1.4 million Americans live in nursing homes. This number is expected to continue growing as the population ages. However, there need to be more nursing homes to accommodate this growing demand.
16. Limited access to affordable healthcareMany Americans, particularly those in low-income or underserved communities, do not have access to affordable healthcare, which leads to a shortage of qualified nurses. This is because many aspiring nurses need help to afford the cost of education and training, which can be prohibitively expensive.
17. Lack of diversity in the nursing workforce
When the nursing workforce is not representative of the community it serves, there may be a lack of cultural competency and understanding of the unique healthcare needs of certain populations. This can lead to healthcare disparities and poor access to quality care for minority communities.
18. Competition from other industries
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for nurses is $77,600, which is lower than the median annual wage for many other occupations, such as software developers ($105,590) and petroleum engineers ($137,170). This can lead to nurses seeking higher-paying jobs in other industries, contributing to the shortage of nurses in healthcare.
19. Political and economic instability
One aspect of political instability contributing to the nursing shortage is the lack of investment in healthcare infrastructure. In times of economic uncertainty, it is common for governments to cut funding for healthcare programs and facilities. This reduces the number of nursing programs, as well as the number of available nursing positions.
20. Military deployment
According to the Department of Defense data, approximately 11,000 military nurses serve on active duty. These nurses often serve as primary care providers, patient advocates, and educators. In addition to serving in the military, many nurses also work as civilian nurses when not deployed. The deployment of military nurses can significantly impact the civilian nurse workforce, leaving hospitals and other healthcare facilities understaffed.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ms. Pinky Maniri-Pescasio is the Founder of GoHealthcare Consulting. She is a National Speaker on Practice Reimbursement and a Physician Advocate. She has served the Medical Practice Industry for more than 25 years as a Professional Medical Practice Consultant.