5 Ideas To Resolve Nursing Shortages
Headlines about healthcare worker burnout have been ringing alarm bells since 2020. Nursing attrition rates have never been higher. It sounds alarming, but the current state of the industry is an acceleration of a trend that’s taken shape over more than a decade. Healthcare is losing talent and not replacing it fast enough. To attract and retain the talent needed to meet growing healthcare demand, it’s time for the industry to consider an overhaul.
To resolve record nurse shortages, the healthcare industry needs new strategies to make it easier for qualified individuals to get started and stay engaged in nursing. Consider these five ideas:
1. Improve pathways from higher education to nursing careers
Colleges and universities can partner with healthcare organizations to implement programs for connecting students with career opportunities. Students in higher education are more likely to pursue a nursing career when they know a job is waiting for them upon graduation. The promise of job security will boost program enrollment rates and the number of students earning either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Education-to-career pathways will also reduce postgraduate unemployment and give young professionals the income they need to fulfill student loan requirements.
2. Create professional development opportunities
Nurses often find themselves working in units that don’t align with their expertise. This leads to stress and a lack of professional confidence, which increases risk for low-quality patient care. By offering professional development opportunities, hospitals help nurses build and broaden their skills. A career development approach empowers nurses to thrive and enhances the quality of patient care.
3. Expand DEI and ESG policies for a broader talent pool
State and local governments can boost the nursing workforce by investing in historically marginalized communities. Governing bodies should allocate funds to nursing programs in regions where underrepresented groups comprise most of the population. They should also pass bills to increase access to BSNs at community colleges, which are less expensive than four-year universities. Diversifying talent pools improves opportunities for aspiring nurses regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background.
4. Federal tuition reimbursement for ADN and BSN programs
Tuition reimbursement plays a pivotal role in encouraging college and university students to pursue a nursing degree. If tuition is reduced or reimbursed, aspiring nurses enter the workforce with less debt and benefit from their earning potential more quickly. Meanwhile, healthcare facilities benefit from a consistent influx of new nursing talent. Tuition assistance is a win-win.
5. Broad U.S. healthcare policy reform
Congress holds the power to increase the number of nurses via federal and state nursing workforce commissions. These commissions could monitor the nursing supply in each state and inform policy decisions based on demand. Potential policies include funding to expand capacity and resources to support nursing programs with student scholarships and a larger presence in underserved communities.
No easy answer
There’s no simple solution to the nursing shortage. The problem has grown over the past decade, and years will pass before the healthcare industry sees significant improvements. But these ideas can work — if every hospital, college, and legislature plays its part.