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Nurses have provided valuable help in healthcare facilities this past year, but are nurses in demand? A growing nursing shortage and other factors are leading to an expanded need for nurses that is expected to continue throughout the new year. A strong demand for experienced nurses means that plenty of job openings are projected to be available, providing the chance to do your part in providing much-needed patient care. Knowing more about the nursing shortage and the rise in demand for nurses can help you understand the importance of earning a nursing degree.

The Growing Nursing Shortage

With burnout and stress from COVID-19 the past couple of years, an aging population, and other factors, the number of nurses needed and the number of nurses that are leaving the profession is increasing. This is resulting in a nursing shortage that is making it more difficult to ensure quality patient care in some areas. Finding ways to make up for this growing shortage is leading to an increasing demand for nurses. Even before the global pandemic, there was a major shortage of nurses. This shortage has increased due to the impact of the pandemic on nurses and their mental health and is only expected to continue to increase at alarming rates. The American Nurses Foundation conducted a “COVID-19 Two-Year Impact Survey” that concluded that 52% of nurses are leaving or considering leaving their jobs and 89% of them said that their organization is experiencing a staffing shortage.

Future Employment Outlook for Nurses

According to the BLS, the job outlook for registered nurses is expected to be nine percent through 2030. This amounts to roughly 194,500 job openings per year. Some types of healthcare industries have higher employment levels for RNs compared to others. The BLS data shows that general medical and surgical hospitals employ the highest levels of RNs with roughly 1,752,000 RN jobs as of May 2021. RNs at these facilities account for 31 percent of the workforce in this industry. Other common settings for nursing employment include:

  • Physician offices: 7% of nurses, or 192,300 RNs 
  • Home health care services: 11% or 173,790 RNs
  • Outpatient care centers: 15% of nurses, roughly 147,720 RNs
  • Nursing care facilities: 9% of the workforce, or 131,320 RNs

These employment levels can give you a better idea of which types of healthcare industries are likely to have a higher number of job openings in the coming years, including 2022. As demand for nurses keeps growing, you can explore different nursing careers based on the type of industry you want to work in.

What Is Causing the Nursing Shortage?

Several factors are contributing to the nursing shortage. Learning more about these factors is helpful for understanding why a shortage is occurring and what can be done about it.

Retirement and Burnout

Although there are around 4.3 million RNs in the U.S., according to the American Nurses Association (ANA), a significant number will be retiring soon. ANA states that more than one fifth of of RNs intend to retire between 2020-2025. Nurse burnout and an older average age among nurses are factors that are contributing to the increase in retirement. The burnout nurses have been experiencing on the job has led some to retire or leave the profession to pursue a different career. It’s estimated that roughly 1.2 million new nurses will be needed by 2030 to replace those who are retiring to accommodate the growing need for healthcare services. Some causes of burnout include insufficient staffing, long work hours, and an increased risk of becoming ill at work.

COVID-19 Pandemic Exacerbates Burnout

According to a review of sixteen studies on nurse burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on nurses’ ability to cope with the high pressure stressors of the job has been severe. 34.1% of participants reported emotional exhaustion, 12.6% experienced depersonalization, and 15.2% felt a personal lack of accomplishment. According to the more than 18,935 nurses who met the inclusion criteria, the core risk factors for increased burnout include:

  • Low family and colleagues’ readiness to cope with COVID‐19 outbreak
  • Increased perceived threat of COVID‐19
  • Longer working time in quarantine areas
  • Working in a high‐risk environment and/or hospitals with inadequate and insufficient material and human resources
  • Increased workload and lower level of specialized training regarding COVID‐19

Shortage of Faculty

While there are many people who are interested in earning a nursing degree, this is not always easy due to a faculty shortage. In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) states that nursing schools in the U.S. rejected more than 66,000 qualified applicants from undergraduate and graduate degree programs in 2020. These rejections were due to faculty shortages and other factors, such as clinical placement opportunities. Nursing schools can benefit from more nurses becoming nurse educators in order to ensure sufficient faculty.

Requirement of Additional Education/Skills

Some healthcare facilities are raising standards for the nurses they hire. For RNs without a bachelor or advanced degree, this can make it harder to find employment. In some cases, healthcare facilities are looking for nurses who have additional skills that go beyond RN training for associate degrees. Nurses who are finding it difficult to gain employment due to additional education or skill requirements can earn a bachelor or advanced degree. These degrees can provide them with the skills and training employers are looking for.

The Growing Population of Older Adults

With a higher number of adults reaching their senior years, the need for nurses is expected to grow significantly. The nursing shortage makes it difficult to ensure older adults have access to quality care for medical issues and chronic conditions. The aging population in the U.S. is projected to reach roughly 82 million by 2030. With nurses retiring or leaving the profession, many more working RNs will be needed to guarantee adequate geriatric care. Older patients have increased risks of developing chronic health conditions or other medical issues, resulting in the need for prompt and high-quality care.

Impact of Nursing Shortage on Patients

A nursing shortage can have a major impact on patient care in several ways. Fewer nurses can lead to a higher patient mortality rate, since it is difficult to ensure that all patients receive proper and timely care. Not having enough nurses at healthcare facilities can also result in an increased risk of medication errors, such as forgetting to administer medicine or administering the wrong dosage. A nursing shortage can also affect patients in terms of hospitalization time. When patients do not get proper care, it can lead to the need for additional procedures or treatment. Patients might also face a higher risk of developing a disability due to a lack of care or insufficient care.

What Types of Nurses Are Most in Demand?

Community Health Nurse

With a greater focus on community-based care, community health nurses are in high demand. These nurses assess the needs of their community and create programs aimed at addressing those needs. They also educate communities on health-related issues, such as preventing disease, accessing healthcare services, and improving health and wellness through nutrition and exercise.

Nurse Educator

Nurse educators work in universities and colleges or in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, where they teach nursing students or staff. These nurses come up with nursing curriculum, assess academic performance, and adjust teaching approaches or curriculum as needed.

Critical Care Nurses

Critical care nurses provide patient care in emergency rooms and intensive care units for those who need immediate treatment. These nurses care for patients who have life-threatening illnesses or injuries.

Geriatric Nurses

Geriatric nurses are RNs who specialize in caring for aging populations. These nurses are trained to provide care based on the needs of geriatric patients, such as treating multiple chronic health issues or reducing the risk of developing age-related health problems.

Travel Nurses

Travel nurses are RNs who travel to various locations depending on where their services are needed. For example, they might help with staffing shortages in certain areas. Travel nurses provide these services on a temporary basis.

Nursing Informatics

Nurses who specialize in nursing informatics analyze data and use technology to help improve patient care. These nurses have an in-depth understanding of healthcare technology needs and handle responsibilities such as testing systems technology.

Case Management Nurses

Case management nurses are responsible for coordinating care for patients, which helps ensure that these patients receive needed care from multiple healthcare professionals, such as physicians and specialists.

If you are considering furthering your nursing career, contact American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Science at Post University to learn more about our degree programs. We offer an accelerated online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program, which can help you meet the requirements for additional education that some employers are looking for.

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