Accounting for the Nursing Shortage
You may have heard that there is a shortage of American nurses. While opportunities for the nursing workforce have continued to increase at an incredible rate, the supply of Registered Nurses (especially experienced ones) has struggled to keep up.
According to the Department of Health, there are currently seven states facing the largest deficit of nurses by 2030. Four states have a deficit of 10,000 or more full-time employees (FTEs): California, Texas, New Jersey, and South Carolina; followed by Alaska, Georgia, and South Dakota, with deficits less than 10,000 employees.
That said, a national “shortage” is a bit of a misnomer, as not all states are experiencing a deficit of full-time nursing employees; some are in fact experiencing a surplus! Compared to demand expected in 2030, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and New York are expected to have surpluses of over 20,000 nurses. Perhaps, then, the real issue is one of supply and demand, or distribution.
This can even be seen at the hospital level, where some locations are in dire need, while others have increasing competition for nursing jobs! This is the case at the Hackensack University Medical Center, where “there is a waiting list of nurses who wish to work there.”
Despite a few cases similar to the one above, the states and institutions experiencing deficits in nurse staffing are facing a myriad of challenges.
A Few Causes of the “Nursing Shortage”
- A growing number of baby boomers (now around age 65) are in need of care
- Increased demand for nursing adds further stress to an already stressful job, potentially affecting error rates
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compensation for nurses has stagnated, while responsibilities and demand for labor have increased (often leading to burnout)
- Moreover, there is a shortage of nurse faculty at nursing schools, the most important component of growing the body of future nurses in the United States
What Can Nurses Do About It?
Three of these shortage states (Texas, South Carolina, and South Dakota) are part of the Nursing Licensure Compact coalition, which means nurses with Compact Licensure will have ample opportunity to work in areas where nurses are in short supply without the added expense of obtaining additional state licensure. While not a complete fix, these types of more progressive licensure pacts can help ease the distribution burden of experienced nurses.
New graduates, as well as more tenured nurses, may want to consider targeting one of these shortage states for their home base to ensure they have plenty of local job opportunities. This is particularly important for current travel nurses that anticipate moving to staff nursing in the future. They may also want to choose a location based on the nursing salary and demand for their specialty.
If you’d like to find out which state would be the best one for you to live in or travel around, check out the 2019 Travel Nurse Compensation Report.