While many US healthcare organizations have dedicated considerable energy and resources toward their top short-term challenge, the COVID-19 pandemic, long-term issues also loom on the horizon. Among these is the nursing shortage, as research published in the American Journal of Medical Quality estimates that the United States will face a total national deficit of 1 million registered nurses (RNs)—employees who make up the majority of the nursing workforce—by 2030. According to 2021 State of Healthcare Training, a recent study from ATD Research, only 15 percent of healthcare providers report being prepared for the nursing shortage to a high or very high extent.
For 78 percent of healthcare providers, the effects of the nursing shortage have already taken hold. More than half report that it has resulted in more hours worked (70 percent), increased burnout (56 percent), and higher workloads (52 percent) for their nursing staffs. Smaller, yet still substantial, percentages say that it has resulted in personal health risk to nurses (41 percent), increased turnover due to nurses leaving for other jobs (37 percent), and increased turnover from nurses leaving the profession altogether (37 percent).
These outcomes deliver twin challenges to healthcare providers, according to Jenny Harshman, a manager of clinical education and nursing professional development at a large urban, pediatric magnet hospital in Texas. It’s key to have conversations about “the gap not only in the number of nurses, but in the knowledge and expertise of nurses within the organization,” she said in an interview for the report. “The gap of expertise becomes a cycle that is difficult to break.”
Many organizations have stepped up their approaches for attracting and retaining nursing talent in response. Nine in 10 organizations that participated in the research indicated that they had implemented at least one talent strategy for this purpose. The most popular was providing tuition reimbursement for nurses, cited by 81 percent of respondents. Next came formally partnering with educational institutions to develop and recruit new nurses (67 percent) and increasing internal advancement opportunities for nurses (57 percent).
A concerted effort to recruiting new nurses “is essential to improving retention and engagement within the organization,” observed Harshman. In her experience, they afford talent development leaders the opportunity to build “activities that connect the nurses with the organization and engage them apart from patient care” into the program, which can build loyalty.