Nurse executives are concerned nursing shortage is impacting care—and it's only going to get worse 

Nurse-Patient-Hospital-Credit: Getty/monkeybusinessimages
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be 1 million job openings for registered nurses by 2024. (Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

Nursing executives are worried that the industry's ongoing nurse shortage is hurting care quality and patient satisfaction. 

Staffing firm AMN Healthcare surveyed more than 200 chief nursing officers and found that more than one-third (34%) fear that nursing shortages have a "considerable" or "great" impact on care quality. In addition, 41% said that these staffing problems negatively impact the patient experience. 

Many of the nurses surveyed also expressed concern that the shortages are getting worse. More than 70% said the shortage of nurses at their organizations was either "moderate," "significant" or "severe," with one in three calling it significant or severe. The majority of nurses surveyed said they expect the shortages to get worse within five years, while 43% predicted it will worsen within two years. Twenty-eight percent said it will be notably worse within a year. 

"Nurse leaders are increasingly concerned about worsening staff shortages and their impact on patient and staff satisfaction, as well as nurse recruitment," Marcia Faller, Ph.D., R.N., chief clinical officer at AMN Healthcare, said in a statement

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"This survey also suggests that finding effective solutions to this situation may be beyond the capabilities of most healthcare organizations," Faller added. "They are going to need help, especially as nurse shortages get worse." 

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The nursing shortage is costly and frustrating for providers. Hospitals have been spending billions to recruit and retain talented nurses by increasing salaries, offering competitive bonuses and even paying off their student loans. 

Despite these steps, the shortage is only projected to get worse. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be 1 million job openings for registered nurses by 2024. 

The shortage is also hitting hospitals' margins hard, as a stretched-thin staff cares for an aging population, according to Moody's Investors Service. Labor costs are growing, and at a faster rate than revenue growth, according to the group. 

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Hospitals need to get an accurate read on when their nurses plan to retire and build succession plans to best prepare for shortages by working with on-staff RNs to see if they'll delay retirement and encourage them to mentor younger nurses. 

The AMN Healthcare survey found that providers can face significant barriers to nurse recruitment. More than 80% of the surveyed CNOs said that their organizations have "moderate," "significant" or "severe" difficulty with recruiting nurses. 

Two of the biggest challenges in recruitment, according to the survey, are issues that healthcare organizations themselves can't tackle. About a third (32%) of the CNOs said lack of access to high-quality talent was the central issue, while 37% said the location of their facilities posed the biggest hurdle.