Insight Report: Nursing Shortages Demand 'Disruptive' Action

Jennifer Thew, RN, January 24, 2017

Nurse leaders say the standard recruitment and retention methods of sign-on bonuses, pay increases, and retention incentives won't be effective in improving the current nursing shortage.

Kathleen D. Sanford, DBA
Kathleen D. Sanford, DBA

Nursing shortages are like bad pennies—they keep turning up.

Imbalances in RN supply and demand occurred in the 1980s, the late 1990s, and the early 2000s. Now hospitals and health systems across the country are starting to see the effects of another shortage.

During nursing workforce roundtable sessions at HealthLeaders Media's invitation-only 2016 CNO Exchange at the Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara, CA, many of the more than two dozen nurse executives in attendance said they are dealing with a very real nursing shortage at their facilities and systems. But this shortage may be quite different than those past.


Recruiting and Retaining an Effective Nursing Workforce


"I'm looking across the whole country, from the East Coast to the West Coast, watching what's happening in our different markets, and I do believe that the nursing shortage we're going through now is unlike any we've seen before," said Kathleen D. Sanford, DBA, RN, FACHE, FAAN, senior vice president and CNO at Englewood, Colorado–based Catholic Health Initiatives.

CHI operates in 18 states and includes 103 hospitals, community health services organizations, accredited nursing colleges, home health agencies, living communities, and other facilities and services that span the inpatient and outpatient continuum of care.

What Makes This Nursing Shortage Different
By 2020, nearly half of RNs will be at traditional retirement age, the U.S. Department of Labor reports. As these seasoned professionals retire, their experience, knowledge, and skills, which are essential to achieving the goals and outcomes of an increasingly value-based healthcare industry, will go with them.

Add to the mix a multitude of new nursing opportunities created by changing care delivery models and the career philosophies of younger nurses who crave change and typically move on to new opportunities every one to three years, and there is cause for concern.

Jennifer Thew, RN

Jennifer Thew, RN is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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