News Ticker

Is There Really a Nursing Shortage?


Is there really a nursing shortage? It depends who you ask.

Is There Really a Nursing Shortage?

Is there really a nursing shortage: Demographics

We all know that Baby Boomers, now 52- 70 years old, are retiring. That’s a large number of nurses leaving the workforce, or 525,000, according to projections.

In addition, our rapidly aging population means that more care will be needed for people living longer than ever before. It’s predicted by the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics  that the nursing workforce will increase by 19% by 2022, making nursing one of fastest growing occupations.

Is There Really a Nursing Shortage: Stressed Nurses Quitting

Is there really a Nursing Shortage?

Is There Really a Nursing Shortage?

Ask any nurse. Inadequate staffing, patient acuity, regulatory requirements all result in increased stress for the clinical nurse. Nurses are leaving the profession due to stress with no forseeable relief. Nurses are exhausted, dissatisfied, demoralized, and…are quitting.

My sister, who has worked ICU in a well-known teaching hospital for many years and always loved her job, now hates going to work.

Why? The manager is constantly holding up scorecards. Basically comparing nurses’ computer documentation compliance/scores. Was the ET tube moved and documented every 2 hours? Was oral care documented every 2 hours? Are pt satisfaction scores up or down? Is it quiet at night? My sister is never on the top of the list but says she’s OK with that as long as she’s not at the bottom. She’s a superb nurse. Maybe not the best documenter. Her response to her manager (also her friend) when her scores are compared to others?

“Right, and who would you want to take care of you? It’s me, and we both know it.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not recommending that response, but then, she’s been a nurse in the same unit for over 20 years…so she has a bit of seniority 🙂

Is There Really a Nursing Shortage: Geographic Shortages for New Grads

New grads disagree that there is a shortage. Try telling Lindsay, who graduated in January of 2016 and has yet to land a job, that there is a looming nursing shortage of crisis proportions. There’s no shortage of nurses in San Francisco or in many other urban cities and desirable locations. There’s not a shortage in Hawaii. But there is in Ohio, and in rural and not-so-desirable locations. For many graduates relocating becomes a necessity just to land that priceless first job.


Is There Really a Nursing Shortage?

Is There Really a Nursing Shortage? Not for New Grads

Here’s a new grad who posted on Fb: Alright new grads, here is the deal. I know a place that is willing to hire and train new grads,surprising right?lol! It is a hospital 4 hrs away from the bay area,I know you are all thinking wth, that is a long drive. But if you are willing to sacrifice driving and being away from loved ones to get that golden 1 year acute experience, just imagine how marketable you will be after that one year? Whoever is interested,message me and I will get back to you asap.Serious inquiries please,oh and btw, since it is a rural area,expect to get paid at least half of what experienced rns make in SF,Oakland area. 
Also, I know a place where you could possibly stay,it is 5 mins from the hospital so that’s a plus!😁Im just being very straightforward and real here guys and gals!Have a good night nurses😁

Is There Really a Nursing Shortage: Then Fix It

Unfortunately, short term fixes are prioritized over long term strategies. The focus is the monthly budget and sending nurses home two hours early if the census drops while year after year, pricey travel agencies and registries are used, and not much is done to effectively attract and retain talented nurses. Note, travel nurses are not paid high wages. The middle man (the agency) is the one making money here. Read How To Be a Travel Nurse

Hospitals rarely think to ask nurses themselves what would improve retention and recruitment. What’s important to nurses? Schedules, for one. Families. Flexibility. A hospital I know saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars and had zero turnover for over 8 years using the Baylor Staffing Plan on a previously hard-to-staff nursing unit. Here’s what they did:

  • One group of RNs was hired to work weekend days, Saturday and Sunday, 12 hour shifts, for a total of 24 hours. They were paid the equivalent of 40 hours, and accrued full-time benefits.
  • A second group was hired to work weekend nights, Friday and Saturday night, 12 hour shifts, for a total of 24 hours.They were paid the equivalent of 40 hours, and accrued full-time benefits.
  • A third group was hired to work weekdays, Monday through Friday, 12 hour shifts, for a total of 36 hours. No weekends ever.
  • A fourth group was hired to work weekday nights, Sunday through Thursday, 12 hour shifts, for a total of 36 hours. No weekends ever, but weekend differential for Sunday night.

All  groups were enormously content and the team work and camaraderie was incredible. The floor was known in the medical community for providing excellent care, and there was always a list of nurses waiting to be hired.

Is There Really a Nursing Shortage: Reward Seniority

Is there Really a Nursing Shortage?

Nurture nurses

Be innovative. Do something that doesn’t increase income taxes. Lease a car for nurses who have achieved an impressive amount of tenure. Send a housekeeper to the senior nurse’s house every other week, then eventually weekly. It’d be pretty hard for me to ever leave a job where I get my house cleaned as a bonus. Give scheduling/shift preference privileges.

These things may be expensive, and are examples intended to spark creativity, but what’s REALLY expensive is training new nurses who stay 16 months or less and then leave. What’s expensive is prolonged patient stays due to infections and errors that are prevented by seasoned nurses. Study after study correlates adequate staffing with improved patient outcomes.

It only piles on. How high can patient satisfaction scores be in an ED that had a 47% turnover in staff and 3 different managers in the last year and a half?

nursingshortageI’ve been told my ideas are silly, but I think stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime is what’s silly. Staffing an entire night shift in ICU with novice nurses is more than silly, it’s unsafe, and discounting nurses’ concerns ensures we will have a nursing shortage in the future.

Related Nursing’s Dirty Little Secret

Until next time friend,

Nurse Beth

Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth career column at for all kinds of  entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question :) Or visit me at and StaffGarden where I also blog. Buzzzzzz…I’m a busy little bee !


About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: