Samuel Siebu is the executive vice president of a healthcare organization. Like many involved in the healthcare industry, he is highly concerned about the current nursing shortage.
The current nursing shortage began long before the pandemic, according to Siebu. It was first noted in 2012. According to Nurse Key, this shortage is the most severe to ever occur in the U.S. It’s estimated that 1.2 million new nurses will be needed by 2030 to meet the current demand.
California has the most critical shortage. There are currently 343,000 nurses in the state. 387,900. That leaves a shortage of 44,500 nurses.
While other states may have a smaller deficit, 30 states are currently experiencing a nursing shortage.
Nursing shortages are not a new phenomenon. However, the current crisis is more severe than any in recent memory.
The shortage has several causes. One is that baby boomers are now nearing retirement. 500,000 nurses are expected to retire in 2022.
The COVID pandemic meant a greater need for nurses. However, it also expedited the retirement of many nurses, who may have worked a few more years if not for the pandemic.
Nurse turnover has also increased. In fact, some states have experienced a turnover rate of 37%. This can partially be attributed to nurse burnout due to high stress and workload.
Educating nurses has also become more challenging. Staffing shortages also apply to nursing programs in colleges and technical schools. In addition, state policies became more restrictive during the pandemic.
The nursing shortage affects everyone who interacts with healthcare. Siebu notes that the most obvious impact is the impact on patients.
A 2019 study revealed that understaffing led to a 15% increase in post-surgical infections. Another study showed a 9% decrease in pneumonia after surgery when nurses spent one more hour with the patient a week.
Patients experience much higher wait times and less time with doctors and nurses. This can lead to many issues, including medication mix-ups and delays in getting care.
The nursing shortage is complicated, which means it requires multiple strategies to solve the shortage, according to Siebu.
One way to improve the shortage is through education. More nurses are needed, which means educating more people in the field.
Educational promotion strategies include providing incentives for individuals to choose nursing as a career and continue their nursing education beyond a bachelor’s degree.
Those who have a Master of Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree can choose to be educators or leaders in addition to providing high-level care.
In addition to educating and training new nurses, retention is another method for decreasing the shortage.
Increased pay and benefits can help retain nurses, but a flexible work schedule might be even more important. Unfortunately, long hours have become a necessity due to the nursing shortage itself.
Samuel Siebu formerly served as Vice President of Human Resources for VITAS Healthcare. He has also recently worked with AdventHealth as a Chief People Officer in their West Florida Division.