The extraordinary measures nurses took to combat COVID-19 has taken their toll on the profession and continue to worsen the ongoing crisis for the nursing workforce. A longitudinal study by the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) identified nurses’ emotional health and well-being as the most acute problem facing health care today. The pandemic has accelerated the long-existing problem of the nursing shortage by 20 years, according to a report in Employee Benefit News.
America’s more than 3.1 million registered nurses make up the largest segment of the healthcare workforce in the U.S. and nursing is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the supply of RNs will grow by 16% between 2014 and 2024, more than double of all occupations and only one percentage point less than health diagnosing and treating practitioners combined. Despite the projection in growth, demand is outpacing supply. It’s been estimated that 1.2 million nursing vacancies were to emerge between 2014 and 2022, and by 2025 the shortfall is expected to be more than twice as large as any nursing shortage experienced since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s. During this pandemic, the total number of RNs dropped significantly, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, a 2015 study published in the journal Medical Care predicted more than one million nurses are expected to retire between now and 2030, taking with them an invaluable amount of accumulated knowledge and experience.
The combination of these factors will have a significant impact on the delivery of quality care in the coming years. There’s little doubt national nursing leaders and healthcare systems must develop solutions to a problem that will only get worse if left unattended.