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Now Hiring: Could the Pandemic Worsen the Nursing Shortage?


The world needs nurses now more than ever. Hospitals and doctors’ offices are looking for top talent as they continue responding to the pandemic. However, front line workers continue to get sick and take time off work to quarantine. Others are leaving the industry in droves, considering the personal risk that comes with working during the pandemic. While nursing schools are attracting unrepentant attention from aspiring professionals, facilities large and small are duking it out for quality nurses.

We saw similar trends back in March, when major cities and health networks started bidding for talented providers. Now, facilities are at it again as the nursing workforce starts to dry up. Some providers are relocating to hard-hit hospitals and cities being devastated by the virus. Some nurses are going where they’re needed, but others are moving for better pay.

Find out what it’s like to be on the market for a talented nurse.

Trouble in the U.K.

Competition for nursing talent is heating up across the globe, especially in the U.K.

A recent report from the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says that there are around 40,000 nursing vacancies across that country as the number of new coronavirus infections start to rise again. Health experts warn the United Kingdom could be headed for a second wave of the pandemic in the midst of a major nursing shortage.

Nursing homes seem to be in particularly bad shape across England. Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently referred to them as an “afterthought” in the National Health Service. He says that the number of posts has fallen by more than 10,000 in the past eight years while total vacancies have risen to more than 5,000.

A new poll from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in the U.K. shows that a whopping 36% of nurses are thinking about leaving their posts in the National Health Service (NHS) next year. That prompted swift action from the government.

The country’s Chief Nursing Officer, Ruth May, has just announced NHS plans to spend 28 million euros on recruiting the next generation of nurses from overseas. The country is looking past its borders in hopes of rebuilding its network of healthcare providers. Half of the money will go towards resettling providers in the U.K.

Will We See the Same in the U.S.?

Facilities are facing similar concerns here in the U.S. The country has been in the middle of a nursing shortage for years, and statistics show that it will likely get worse in the years ahead. According to the National Institute of Health, the U.S. is currently in need of around one million additional healthcare providers as the baby boomers continue to age and more people seek medical care at home.

Industry experts are also concerned about the number of nurses expected to retire over the next few years, and the coronavirus pandemic will likely accelerate this trend.

At a recent virtual panel at the American Nephrology Nurses Association (ANNA) National Symposium, Nancy Pierce, BSN, RN, CNN, one of three participating nurses, said, “There are a lot of workforce shortage issues. Nurses are retiring.” She pointed to a 2018 ANNA survey that shows that 47.5% of nurses are over the age of 50 and 25% are over the age of 60. She also commented, “We also do not have enough classrooms, clinical sites and faculty to train our newest nurses wanting to get into the specialty.”

In the same ANNA survey, the overwhelming majority of nurses (94%) said they are satisfied with their current position and 91% said they would recommend the profession to a friend or family member. However, 17% of respondents said they were planning to leave their current position in the next 12 months, and 24% within the next 3 years.

In another poll, 36% of nurses said they believe retention and recruitment of nursing staff was a problem at their clinic. Some in the industry blame ageism for the lack of talent. Facilities may be hesitant to hire a nurse if they feel they won’t be around for the long haul.

As for Baptist Memphis Health Care in Tennessee, the facility has been offering a $5,000 signing bonus to new nurses for the month of September. Human Resources Administrative Officer Terry Macalady says, “We’ve had nurses with a calling to go provide care in areas impacted by COVID 19. We haven’t had a significant impact. But we have lost some nurses. We’re excited and the response has been very positive,” he said of the trial bonus.

Even a small dip in nursing talent can be devastating for some communities. We may see more hospitals and medical offices resort to aggressive recruitment tactics as a way of luring experienced providers away from major cities. If you’re looking for a raise or a reason to move, this may be the time.

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