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The Reality of the Nursing Shortage in America

It’s no secret. There’s ample evidence and data to show a massive crisis is looming: a shortage of nursing professionals in the United States.

For years, nursing shortages have plagued hospitals, clinics, and assisted living communities. But it doesn’t stop there—the shortage reaches every corner of healthcare and education with varying degrees of severity. The issue is significant because it has the potential to cripple our current medical system. 

Addressing the Widespread Emergency

In late 2021, the American Nurses Association (ANA) urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to declare the current and unsustainable nursing shortage a national crisis. Further, the ANA called on the HHS to address the current shortage threatening the ability of nurses to provide quality patient care.

In the face of the ongoing pandemic, states took matters into their own hands. Numerous governors declared an emergency due to their state’s chronic nursing shortage amid the continued coronavirus pandemic. This declaration helped remove some barriers to nursing enrollment and provided opportunities to fill vacant teaching positions. Other states mobilized the national guard to support overburdened hospitals following the latest COVID outbreak.

In Terms of Numbers, How Severe Is the Shortage?

The shortage is an issue that affects all 50 states. NurseJournal compiled a ranking of states, starting with those with the lowest nurse-to-state population ratio.

Data on the number of nurses in each state was collected from the Bureau of Health Workforce database and compared to state populations to illustrate the shortage on a state-by-state basis. 

What Factors Impact the Nursing Shortage?

It seems that rather than a single cause, four factors are responsible for the shortage. Each one has its own unique story to tell about why we’re seeing such great demand among healthcare professionals right now.

Registered Nurses Are Retiring

Nursing is experiencing a high rate of retirement. An RN is, on average, 51 years old, and more than half of the nursing workforce is over 50.

Since 2012, over 60,000 registered nurses have left the job each year. Between now and 2030, one million registered nurses will retire from the profession, taking their years of nursing expertise with them. 

An Aging Population

The good news is that people are living longer thanks to advancements in medicine and other positive factors. As people live longer, they are more likely to develop various conditions, demanding more specialized treatment. 

According to the American Nurses Association, nursing will have more job openings than any other profession through 2022. While the growing elderly population will need additional geriatric services, it will also require long-term care and skilled nurses. However, as this vast population begins to need care, the nursing shortage will be at its peak.

Limited Educators = Limited Enrollment

Even before the pandemic, higher education was having trouble keeping up with the demand for nurses for a few reasons:

  • Limited in-person training
  • Nursing educators are leaving
  • Others are retiring
  • Clinical opportunities in hospitals are scarce

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nursing programs were already failing to enroll enough students to meet this demand. Based on the AACN’s report on 2019-2020 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Programs, 80,407 qualified nursing school applicants were turned away from programs because of insufficient faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.

Thousands of people interested in becoming nurses are unable to do so due to a lack of educators. The ongoing decrease in nursing faculty numbers will result in fewer nursing graduates entering the workforce.

Nursing Burnout

You don’t have to dig deep to discover a nursing shortage, and the same can be said about nursing burnout. While there’s plenty of information to support this, you could talk with anyone in the profession—healthcare teams are tired and burnt out. 

Millions of nurses say they’re burned out, and many have left the profession because of it.

Burnout occurs when emotionally and physically exhausting workloads become the norm. Workloads don’t diminish when nurses leave. They pile on top of the existing responsibilities of those who stay. Eventually, nursing professionals leave for the sake of their health and sanity. Considering that nurses make up the biggest portion of our healthcare workforce, burnout poses a significant risk to the nation’s health.

The Importance of Nursing Delegation

The delegation of specific tasks to unlicensed members of the care team is a practical way to provide quality, cost-effective care. This process is known as nursing delegation or delegation in nursing. Delegation refers to an RN delegating patient care responsibilities to unlicensed care team members while remaining accountable for the outcome. The registered nurse cannot delegate nursing judgment-making responsibilities.

RN Delegation is an important part of the healthcare puzzle, especially for residents and assisted living communities. Its primary objectives include maximizing resident independence, reducing medication errors, and improving overall care and positive outcomes. 

Given the range of time-consuming duties associated with patient care, delegation is critical for nurses to enhance their productivity. Delegation can result in significant efficiency improvements, allowing nurses to perform their roles more successfully and freeing up time to resolve issues that only nurses can address.

A Huge Demand, a Huge Shortage

Nursing shortages are expected to continue through 2030. With a lack of nurses, there will be a lack of qualified individuals to work in hospitals, clinics, and other settings. This shortage will impact the quality of patient care, as there are fewer nurses to take care of patients and provide the attention they need. More nurses mean better outcomes for patients. It also means better care and a healthier tomorrow for all of us.

There are several ways to contact us if you’d like to learn more about RN delegation and how it can help you:

Through RN Delegation Academy:

  1. Request RN Delegation
  2. Schedule a Resident Assessment
  3. Schedule a Team Member Check-off
  4. Contact RN Delegation Academy

Through Engagement Through Education:

  1. Schedule an RN Delegation Assessment
  2. Contact Engagement Through Education

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