The healthcare industry is currently facing a nursing shortage that has been ongoing since the late 1980s, and its impact is far-reaching. Many of the causes of the shortage have been identified, and we can likely predict the state of it in the future. The most pressing questions today are “How do we develop nursing shortage solutions?” and “When will those solutions be implemented on a large scale?”
Causes of the Current Nursing Shortage
In some cases, national statistics can give the false impression that there is no shortage. That’s because scarcity isn’t the same in every state. Some states may have too many nurses, while others don’t have enough. Some states may have a surplus of registered nurses but an inadequate number of nurse practitioners. A study by Burning Glass Technologies, a labor market research firm, found a 44% gap between the number of open healthcare positions and the number of people qualified to apply for them. The gap still creates a shortage, even though national or state-wide statistics wouldn’t identify it.
Another area of shortage that national statistics doesn’t readily identify is that the shortage affects a number of healthcare areas. In addition to hospitals, many facilities such as assisted living communities, and short- and long-term care facilities are struggling to maintain a full staff of nurses. Additionally, non-traditional positions such as biostatisticians are going unfilled, which is likely due to working nurses not being encouraged to move into roles.
The need to maintain a staff of full-time working nurses has put a strain on nursing schools. A 2018 survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) found that 75,029 competent applicants were refused admittance to nursing schools due to a lack of enough faculty. The AACN reported nursing schools are struggling to fill faculty positions because a large number of current faculty members are on the verge of retirement, nurses tend to earn a higher salary in clinical and private-sector settings, and not enough nurses are choosing to continue their education.
Advance Your Nursing CareerExplore Degree
Other factors believed to be contributing to the shortage include the increased access to medical treatments in the U.S. via the Affordable Care Act increasing the need for larger nursing staffs and the aging baby boomer population, which will require more medical assistance in the coming years.
Shortages by State
In 2017, The National Center for Health Workforce Analysis published a report projecting the likely demand for registered nurses (RN) and licensed practical nurses (LPN) in 2030. The intent of the report was to highlight the uneven distribution of nurses in the U.S, and it projected that, despite the national demand-to-supply ratio being relatively close, seven states will still be facing shortages of RNs: California, Texas, New Jersey, South Carolina, Alaska, Georgia, and South Dakota.
Table 1: Projected Supply of and Demand for RNs by 2030
Source: Supply and Demand Projections of the Nursing Workforce: 2014-2030
The shortages become more pronounced when examining the need for LPNs. In total, 33 states are projected to need more LPNs than are available, and they are spread across the U.S. Six of those states are in both the West and Northeast, seven are in the Midwest, and 14 are in the South.
Unfortunately, some of the states with the largest projected need for RNs are also expected to have the largest need for LPNs, including Texas (33,500) and Georgia (10,500).
In Search of Nursing Shortage Solutions
Finding nursing shortage solutions isn’t easy. It’s a complex problem, and it will take time to resolve. However, there are ways healthcare organizations and working nurses can start addressing the issue, such as by:
- Using travel nurses: Travel nurses are a great solution when your workplace is overwhelmed due to a natural disaster or an illness outbreak.
- Offering compensation for relocation: Though it may not always be possible for your employer to offer, providing broader compensation packages is often an excellent incentive to draw nurses from states of excess nurses to those of deficit.
- Providing and encouraging growth opportunities: You are more likely to stay within the profession if you are given opportunities to grow and advance your career, such as to specialized positions or roles with more responsibilities.
- Making access to education easier: Working nurses have busy schedules, which means it isn’t always easy to fit another thing into their lives. But continued education is vital both the decreasing the nursing shortage and to develop your nursing skills.
That’s why many working nurses are turning to online education formats to enhance their quality of care and advance their careers. The accredited online RN to BSN program from D’Youville Online is offered in a fully digital format, providing you with a flexible way to earn your degree on a schedule that works for you. Plus, our program can be completed in as little as two years. If you already have your BSN, consider enrolling in our online MSN program. Our online master’s in nursing education has a clinical focus and offers you the opportunity to directly tailor your course of study to meet your unique career interests through three focus areas: pediatrics, women’s health, and adult general. The online master’s in education is offered completely online and can also be completed in as little as two years.