There is a national crisis in health care today, and the pandemic is only a contributing factor in the widespread emergency. There is a major nursing shortage affecting every hospital system to varying severities.
The statistics detailing the shortage are startling. For instance, as of last month, open nursing jobs are 255% higher in 2021 compared to the same time period last year. The reasons are numerous including increased need for care in general, high burnout rates due to increased responsibilities, more older nurses retiring annually than young counterparts entering the field, a national phenomenon known as “the great resignation,” some nurses refusing to be vaccinated and recent healthcare legislation making the field less attractive.
While hospitals continually compete for nurses in a spirited marketplace, many are focusing on retention. They are showing their current nurses the money through higher average wages and availability of overtime. The theme is retaining the best and brightest nurses, while also continuing to recruit others at every turn. Some nurses are following the money, leaving their current jobs in local hospitals for other employment in metropolitan hospitals where the rate could be triple the status quo with a signing bonus and travel stipend.
Due to shortages in full-time nurses, the demand for national travel nursing has exploded. Travel nurses on average are billing more than $150/hour, as a result of hospitals desperately needing their services to meet their shift demands. It’s become a cutthroat market.
The crisis has now reached the point the medical community is seeking a national declaration from the government. In a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, the American Nurses Association President Ernest Grant requested mobilizing federal resources to help the private sector combat this public health emergency.
“The nation’s health care delivery systems are overwhelmed, and nurses are tired and frustrated as this persistent pandemic rages on with no end in sight. Nurses alone cannot solve this longstanding issue and it is not our burden to carry,” wrote Grant in the letter. “If we truly value the immeasurable contributions of the nursing workforce, then it is imperative that HHS utilize all available authorities to address this issue. ANA stands ready to work with HHS and other stakeholders on a whole of government approach to ensure we have a strong nursing workforce today and in the future. Our nation must have a robust nursing workforce at peak health and wellness to administer COVID-19 vaccines, educate communities, and provide safe patient care for millions of Americans. We cannot be a healthy nation until we commit to address underlying, chronic nursing workforce challenges that have persisted for decades.”
Nurses are critical to medical care. They are the front-line individuals who truly care for those needing medical assistance. While the doctors steer the treatments, the nurses are the soldiers who carry out those orders. In many cases, nurses are the single biggest indicator of quality service. A successful medical care model does not function without enough nurses. Government often rises to help private businesses in times of crisis, and the current nursing shortage in the health care world certainly qualifies as such a situation.