The Next Nursing Shortage is Looming…in the Future

(Last Updated On: November 29, 2017)

The next nursing shortage it’s far away in the future but will be a bigger mess than before



oogle “nursing shortage,” you’ll get a lot’s of hits, and pages. But most likely these articles are sponsored by nursing schools. The reality is that there is no nursing shortage. With the exception of some remote areas, there are plenty of nurses looking for work, and not finding. Because there are plenty of nurses, no one is interested in training new nurses. The lack of investments into training new nurses will eventually create a bigger shortage in the future when health care will inevitably change, and possibly very fast.

Nursing institution is a complex and delicate structure that takes generations to form. Any disruption into nursing culture can take many years to repair. What is happening now is nothing short of a dismantling of nursing in many ways.

A big crisis may happen due to a lack of prepared nurses to take the work force if a big increase in patient load occurs. In the past, nursing gluts and shortages were nothing new, but there is something very unique happening with nursing today.

Due to a severe lack of hiring, young nurses are less likely to be trained by experienced nurses who are leaving and retiring en masse. All the accumulated knowledge and expertise from nurses with years of experience will be lost.

Spending money to train new nurses just doesn’t make any business sense for corporate for profit health care, and that is bad news. Nursing, like many other medical professions, require huge amounts of time to create nurses that can be on their own. When older, more experienced nurses finally retire, a colossal need for new nurses will occur and there will be no experienced nurses to fill their places.

Nurses older then 50 represent 44.7 %, age 60+ represent 15.5% of the workforce according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. So we can safely say that the number of nurses retiring relatively soon will be very significant. In essence,  new trends are killing mentorship and destroying nursing education that is vital for new nurses. There are contradicting reports being released.

The Staffing Industry Annalists have release a groundbreaking finding in 2015 – The Healthcare Staffing Growth Assessment Report. Contrary to the overwhelming rhetoric from policy makers and nursing schools, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) now predicts a nurse’s surplus of 340,000 in the U.S. by 2015.

When experienced nurses leave, years of accumulated clinical knowledge and expertise leaves with them. There is absolutely no substitute for that; no text book or school program will match the power of years of floor experience.

Training of new nurses already suffers from an acute deficit since students have so many constraints in being with patients. Students can’t touch patients because hospitals fear (rightfully so) law suits. Training or learning hospitals are a thing of the past; there are simply very few of them.

Nurses have an intense theoretical and academic instruction, but hands on learning is basically non existent. The only places able to train nurses with hands on experience are hospitals, but they feel this responsibility is not theirs.

Acute care can only be found in hospitals. This is where nurses can learn acute care skills. You can’t learn it in a classroom or online. One of the long living unspoken rules, was that hospitals would take new grads through in this learning transition. But hospitals want to cut costs, management sees training as a bad investment. Hospitals are making record profits and there is no shortage of money, but the agenda does not include social responsibility. The agenda is profit.

This is a clear example of why for-profit corporations should not be in charge of health care.

Since there are plenty of nurses available, new grad programs are being fazed out. New nurses are trained by other nurses by shadowing arrangements. This is however a heap hazardous practice at best because as hospitals are under staffed there are fewer and fewer nurses able to provide this services. When the bubble bursts, there will be a problem and patients can’t wait until the problem is solved. Patients need care now.

The funny thing is that before 2008, there was an acute shortage of nurses. It all changed within 2 months. How did we go from a severe shortage to having no shortage at all. It’s simple: nursing has shifting dynamics. There is about 10 – 20% of nurses who work occasionally, when times are tough. Technically we can call these nurses a fluctuating population. They only work when they need to. When the recession came in 2008, every single one of these nurses showed up to work. But they can also leave without saying a word.

The other “nursing glut inducer” is the never-retiring older RN’s. They just stick around one more year which turns into another year and so on. Every sign points to a bulge in this demographic. The core nursing staff right now is mostly comprised of older nurses, who are staying just a little longer. But it’s a real possibility that they could start retiring in droves.

The other factor which might possibly aggravate the acute return of a shortage is a surge in patient load.  When the economy is going well, patient load surges. More money and more insurance means more disposable income to take care of all elective treatment they have been postponing. This has all the signs of a perfect storm.

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In Category: 1.NURSING

Marcos Taquechel

Marcos is an RN. Thanks for stopping by and reading my posts. I hope you are able to get something useful out of this blog. Take good care of yourself and don't worry about anything until you have something to worry about.

Show 4 Comments
  • Elena Hartman July 4, 2015, 17:27

    I guess the money that healthcare institutions could be spending now on new grad programs, they’ll be spending on extra pay to experienced nurses down the road because of experienced nurse shortage. So short-sighted, unfortunately! Thanks for the article!

    • Marcos Taquechel October 11, 2015, 19:14

      That is the problem leading us to why health care should not be for profit.

  • Beth Hawkes (Nurse Beth) July 3, 2015, 15:14

    I think there is at once a glut of new grads and a shortage of experienced nurses. At least in some areas- it varies by location in the country. I agree experience is not valued enough. Thanks for sharing this thought provoking article.

    • Marcos Taquechel July 3, 2015, 18:15

      Thank you for your comment Nurse Beth!

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