Nursing Shortages by State: The Outlook for 2021
Travel nurses don’t know where their next assignment is until they accept it, which could mean taking a position at a nearby facility or flying across the country to a brand-new state. It all depends on where there’s a need. According to annual data following the country-wide nursing shortage, there are more than a few places travel nurses could find themselves stationed in 2021. Here’s a look at the data and what it means for the future of the travel nursing industry as the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic comes into sight.
The main factors behind the nursing shortage
The United States’ nursing shortage has been growing for the past few years, but recent events have amplified the need for qualified nursing professionals even more. Here’s a quick look at some of the driving factors:
- Aging population. As Baby Boomers continue to age, their need for healthcare is putting more stress on hospital systems across the country. At the same time, more and more nurses are retiring from the workforce, and there aren’t enough new nurses to replace them.
- Low enrollment in nursing programs. Opportunities for aspiring nurses are growing slimmer due to limited educational resources and fewer faculty. This means that people interested in nursing might be turned away from programs or simply don’t hear about programs in their areas because of low recruitment.
- COVID-19. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic created a massive need for healthcare workers. The pandemic has also taken a physical and emotional toll on current healthcare workers, leading them to leave the field, further increasing the shortage.
Where is the need the greatest?
According to data from the Bureau of Health Workforce, the nurse-to-population ratio for the entire country is 12.06 nurses per 1,000 people. However, this ratio varies from state to state. Some parts of the country are faring much better than others when it comes to being well-staffed with qualified nurses.
Generally speaking, areas like the Midwest, central United States, and Northeast are pacing with demand for nurses. Many states in these areas have 14.1–16 nurses per 1,000 people. By comparison, states in the Pacific Northwest, West Coast, and Southwest regions have much lower nurse-to-state population ratios.
Wyoming currently has the leading ratio, with 19.86 nurses per 1,000 people. South Carolina has the lowest ratio of 7.89 nurses to 1,000 people, followed by Nevada, California, and Texas.
Major cities are among the hardest hit by nursing shortages across the board. Places like Washington, D.C.; Dallas; Los Angeles; Houston; and New York City have very low local concentrations of nurses compared to the national nurse employment.
For travel nurses, the nation-wide nursing shortage means more assignments across all regions. However, certain places are in need of more help, so your chances of securing assignments in areas with low nurse-to-population ratios are higher. For example, Washington state is near the bottom of the list for qualified nursing professionals per capita and has multiple major cities. So, there are bound to be assignments for facilities in Tacoma, Seattle, and Spokane. Texas, too, has high need; places like Austin, Dallas, and Houston are likely to be prime spots for travel nurses. No matter where you want to go — near or far — there are opportunities in top-tier facilities found across the country.