Nurses — who make up the largest healthcare profession — have navigated their careers through a global pandemic, a travel nursing boom, supply issues, and continue to face an ongoing nursing shortage.
These factors bring a unique set of challenges for those recruiting the nursing workforce. A better understanding of the issues this profession faces can help recruiters bring more talent in the door.
Current issues in nursing
While the healthcare industry has experienced some degree of nursing shortages for decades, recent projections paint a dire picture. One study, based on data from the 2022 NSI National Healthcare Retention & RN Staffing Report found that the current 17% turnover rate with a combined 6% entry rate will leave our healthcare system short 2.1 million nurses by 2025. The nursing shortage continues due in large part to these factors:
High turnover: In 2022, the average turnover rate for staff RNs reached a national average of 22.5%. While healthcare leaders had hoped the turnover rate was reducing, the COVID-19 pandemic added stress and dissatisfaction for nurses.
Nurses retiring: In 2020, a survey led by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing found that that average age for RNs was 52. As these nurses retire over the next 15 years, the nursing workforce will suffer a significant loss — both in terms of number of nurses and experience and expertise for patient care. Some leaders estimate that roughly one million nurses are projected to retire by 2030.
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.
Reasons nurses leave
Many variables affect why nurses leave an organization. Some of the most common reasons include these current issues:
Burnout: An occupational phenomenon (not a medical condition) resulting from chronic workplace stress, burnout is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, increased mental distancing from one’s work or cynicism about work, and reduced professional efficacy. High patient loads, long shifts, complex care protocols, high stress, and emotionally taxing situations can all contribute to burnout among nurses, harming their mental well-being.
Compassion fatigue: Many factors that impact an individual’s mental health, including high stress levels, long hours, and secondary trauma, are a normal part of a nurse’s job. Compassion fatigue occurs when a person is physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted from caring for others. To some degree, it hits almost everyone who cares for people who are suffering or who have experienced trauma.
Moral injury: What had been frequently confused as burnout has only recently been more accurately identified as moral injury — a relatively new term in health care. The term describes the challenges of simultaneously knowing what patients need, but being unable to provide it due to constraints beyond a caregiver’s control. Moral injury can lead to depressive symptoms and contribute to burnout.
Workplace violence: While the degree of workplace violence encounters can differ in nature, they all have serious implications for nurses and their organizations. Workplace violence has been linked to psychological distress, low employee engagement rates, high turnover, reduced quality of care, and financial liability.
Workload: Nurses want to complete their shifts knowing they have provided the care encompassed in their patient care assignment. As acuity rates rise, lengths of stay are compressed, and nurses are assigned larger patient loads. Meeting the goals of quality patient care and even patient safety needs may be overwhelming — and perhaps impossible.
While recruiters can’t solve for the current issues in nursing, certain strategies can better acknowledge them. If you’re not already addressing the challenges within the nursing industry, consider the following ideas:
Skills-based hiring: Recruiters facing a shortage of nursing applicants should reconsider the requirements embedded in the 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.
Skills-based hiring is gaining traction in many industries, including health care. This approach focuses on candidates’ clinical knowledge, abilities, and competencies rather than prioritizing their education or years of work experience. By hiring emerging professionals, hospitals can effectively expand their staff while investing in their future.
Mental health and well-being support: Burnout, compassion fatigue, and depression have become an all-to-common occurrence among nurses. Each directly impact their ability to perform their job to the fullest extent possible. Nurses benefit from a workplace culture that addresses mental health wellness and encourages staff to seek support when needed.
Provide candidates with information on how the organization promotes mental health and emotional well-being for nurses. Candidates may not feel comfortable asking for information on this topic. But know that it is top of mind for nurses. Take the initiative to start the conversation and information sharing.
Salary: Provide competitive compensation and benefit packages. Also review compensation levels among competing healthcare employers at least twice a year to make sure they remain competitive. It’s much easier today for employees to find and compare compensation packages from other employers. Employers with high retention rates offer flexible benefit programs and consistently provide competitive salaries.
Altering your recruitment approach or changing your conversations with candidates can help you navigate the nursing shortage. To provide patients with the care they need, recruiters and leaders must address the nursing shortage head-on. Being aware of the current issues in nursing gives you an edge in recruiting and retaining top talent.
For more information on Nurse.com’s talent marketplace or to build your custom talent acquisition solution package, contact us today.