I’ve been an RN for twenty-six years as I write this, and I can say and share from experience that there has been a “shortage” of nurses for every one of those years.
But just because I’m an insider doesn’t mean it’s true. Right? I mean, for as many of those years, the general public has been made aware by the media that there is indeed a shortage of qualified RNs.
Especially in times of crisis.
So that begs the question. Are we truly in a continuous downturn, or is it simply exacerbated during times of great need or when the healthcare system is stressed?
So riddle me this, why is there a shortage of qualified nurses?
We all know that the aging population coupled with extended lifespans means more folks are entering the healthcare system. Sure, it begins with baby boomers, but the fact is it will likely continue for good.
As such, many research studies have been done and are being done to help better understand the shortage.
One recent study in an issue of Medical Care, the official journal of the American Public Health Association, helps us to wrap our minds around it. According to the study, “We still project the nation will have a shortage of around 130,000 nurses by 2025, which is by no means a small number. But it’s not the overwhelming shortage that we had once anticipated,” it says.
So is it a shortage that will impact how we deliver healthcare? Or is it, as the article states, “not an overwhelming shortage…”?
Why do shortages continue, and when did they first start?
Some can point to the economic downturns back in 2007 and 2008. With folks out of work and thus seeking new career options, nursing and going to nursing school were avenues many chose to take.
The thing is, as these nurses get a bit “long in the tooth,” retirement is now on their radars within the next decade or so.
But how about this. Let’s place the articles, studies, and statistics aside, and let’s dig into what a real nurse goes through and thinks every day.
The average age of an RN is about 44 years old. That’s not exactly old, but it surely isn’t spring chicken either. Consider the demands that 12-hour shifts take and then toss in the pandemic, and what we have is a recipe for burnout and fatigue.
Now let’s also add in the fact that enrollment in nursing schools has leveled off. In other words, it’s not growing at the rates we saw back in 2007 or so.
And for grins, let’s talk about nursing school instructors. That pool is also dwindling down as they age and look to retirement.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), U.S. nursing schools turned away nearly 70,000 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2014. The reasons were due to insufficient faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.
While some experts may say that there really isn’t a shortage at all, the trifecta I just mentioned and the fact that you and I are practicing nurses screams otherwise.
The writing is on the wall.
Right now, only 55 percent of the registered nurse population is prepared at the baccalaureate or higher degree level. This stat is one of the more important ones because it is an advanced practice and degree nurses who will make up the faculty to teach and train the next generations of nurses. These faculty shortages are limiting the number of new nurses, and this stat only continues to worsen.
Does the (real or perceived) nursing shortage help or hurt the travel nurse industry?
The “experts” will say one thing, but as a botts on the ground travel nurse myself, I’d say this helps the travel nurse industry immensely.
The current shortage of qualified RNs can be a big plus for traveling nurses.
Because facilities, hospitals, and clinics that are in dire need of nursing help can give bumps in pay rates to bring in temps while at the same time remaining non-committal to hiring full-time nursing staff. Plus, when the purse strings of small and large hospitals alike are tight, it simply makes dollars and cents sense to NOT commit to hiring full-time nursing staff.
For staff members, that fact stings.
For travel nurses, it means more contracts and better wages.
The final word
Every day, I speak to nurses struggling with the fact that their facility is hiring either agency or traveling nurses. They feel slighted and often as though their facility will never really commit to higher wages for staff members.
It’s a hard truth to swallow, but nevertheless, it’s a truth that RNs have to deal with.
The question for many of us is to travel or not to travel. Do we jump ship and ride the wave of higher wages and contract work, or sit tight and hope that the shortage wanes. It’s a decision each of us must make, and it’s dependent on your circumstance.
For me, I’ll take my work ethic and drive and put them to good use as a travel nurse. I’ll take my commitment to buttress the nursing profession and deliver it as a traveling nurse.
Are you a travel nurse?
What are your thoughts on the nursing shortage? Have you seen its impact or not?
I’d love to know! Please share your comments below, and as always, I wish you all safe travels.
To learn more about the travel nursing opportunity and cities across the country, visit Bestica Healthcare and start planning your next assignment today.