Recruiting and retaining nurses has become an increasingly difficult task due to an ongoing nursing shortage in 2022. A variety of factors have converged to facilitate this shortage, leaving hospitals and smaller practices across the country unable to hire enough staff.
To provide patients with the vital care they need to survive, recruiters and healthcare leaders must learn how to address the nursing shortage head-on. Being aware of the current trends in nursing recruitment gives you an edge in recruiting and retaining top talent.
Is there really a nursing shortage?
Nursing shortage statistics confirm that the healthcare industry is facing an urgent need for additional nurses. And, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the current shortage of RNs in the U.S. is only expected to increase as the need for healthcare expands and Baby Boomers age and ultimately retire. By 2022, there will be far more RN jobs available than any other profession. With more than 500,000 seasoned nurses leaving the profession (to retire) by 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for 1.1 million new RNs for expansion and replacement of retirees.
In fact, by 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2016-2026, lists RNs among the top occupations in terms of job growth, expected to reach 3.4 million by 2026 — equaling 438,100 new registered nurses, a roughly 15% increase. This estimate, however, does not include the Bureau’s projected need for an additional 203,700 new RNs each year (through 2026) to account for the Baby Boomers’ retirement rate and standard demand for newly created positions. The nursing community is working collaboratively to address the nursing shortage hospitals are facing, as the crisis is only growing.
Why is there a shortage of nurses?
To effectively address the nursing shortage, hospital administrators must first understand why it exists in the first place. There is no single explanation for the shortage, but rather a variety of factors working together to compound the problem, including:
Demographic Shifts: By 2030, an estimated 82 million Americans will be over the age of 65. As the baby boomer generation enters retirement age, an increasing number of nurses across medical fields — from urgent care to palliative care — will be needed to accommodate them. At the same time, the U.S. could see a deficit of 200,00 to 450,000 RNs by 2025. If demand for nurses outgrows the number of nurses available, healthcare facilities across the country will be without adequate staffing numbers.
Educational Challenges: As the demand for nurses increases, the number of young people entering nursing school is also rising. At first glance, this trend appears to address the nursing shortage, but the AACN warns that many nursing schools do not have the resources needed to meet demand, ultimately exacerbating the healthcare labor shortage.
According to the association’s 2019-2020 report on baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs, U.S. nursing schools turned away 80,407 qualified candidates in 2019 due to an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, and clinical preceptors, as well as budget constraints. In fact, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said they could not accept qualified applicants into their nursing programs due to a shortage of faculty and/or clinical preceptors.
High Turnover: Another factor contributing to the nursing shortage is high turnover within the industry. In 2019, average turnover rates were 15.9% for registered nurses and 26.5% for certified nursing assistants. Emergency room nurses exceeded the national average with a turnover rate of 18.5%, followed closely by critical care nurses at 18.1%. According to the research, new nurses are particularly prone to turnover, with 27.6% of all new hires leaving their roles within a year.
How to effectively recruit nurses
Recruiters and healthcare leaders facing a shortage of nursing applicants should consider adjusting the requirements embedded in the nursing recruitment process. Many hospitals require candidates to have multiple years of experience before they are even considered a viable applicant. This leaves countless entry-level nurses who are eager to learn and serve their communities without a place to practice. By hiring emerging professionals, hospitals can effectively expand their staff while investing in their future.
Hospitals must also learn how to market themselves to further improve the hiring process. For healthcare institutions in states experiencing a shortage of applicants, that means finding ways to set themselves apart from the competition. Establishing a healthy, engaging workplace environment, one that promotes teamwork, work/life balance, and learning opportunities may be the best recruiting strategy for nurses.
But fostering a supportive work environment isn’t just about strong nursing recruitment — it’s a way to reduce turnover, too. Signing bonuses, competitive salaries, professional development opportunities, and mentorship programs are all effective ways to attract new nurses and retain existing ones.
Recruit new employees with confidence
If you’re challenged by how to deal with staff shortages in nursing, you’re not alone. Recruiters across the country are striving to understand how to recruit and retain nurses in a highly unpredictable market. Healthcare leaders, recruiters, and hiring managers can gain insights from the survey results that can inform your efforts to hire and retain nurses. By understanding what trends are occurring in nurses’ opinions of their roles and their salaries, you can develop strategies that help them feel supported, appreciated, and engaged with your organization.