By Jori Short, RN, COO, Ally Medical.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the bravery and commitment of health care professionals in the face of danger and tragedy. Unfortunately, the continued stress of the crisis took a severe toll on the heroic nurses who provided invaluable care and hope to our communities. It also further exposed the crippling nurse shortage that is plaguing the health care system nationwide and in Texas and increased the call to think outside of the box to address the crisis.
Some hospitals in Texas and across the country are taking steps to address the shortage, and they’re doing it by making changes for a more inclusive and friendly environment – providing nurses with better engagement and empowerment to shape operations and improve patient care.
Addressing the causes
The nursing shortage is a long-standing challenge, but the pandemic has significantly worsened the problem. Nurses and physicians have left in record numbers, due to fatigue and exhaustion. High turnover has severely affected employee morale, creating a snowball effect that could encourage more nurses and other staff to leave. It can also have an impact on attracting new talent.
The difficulties of COVID-19 created a wave of early retirements due in part to the extended period of limited access to medical facilities for both patients and staff. Because hospitals stopped doing elective surgeries – and many patients made it a point to stay away for safety reasons – hospitals had less income and needed to reduce staff to stay afloat. A 2015 study reported that more than 1 million RNs would retire from the workforce between now and 2030. As they go, they take with them their invaluable accumulated knowledge and experience.
Unfortunately, the critical nursing shortage shows no sign of abating, and experts project that 1.2 million new RNs will be needed nationwide in the next eight years in order to address the shortage. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, there are already 23,000 more unfilled RN jobs, and that number is expected to increase 50% by 2030. What’s more, the shortage of RNs will only intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows.