Nurses are the lifeblood of any hospital or facility. Quality healthcare is not possible without a staff of well-trained, satisfied nurses working under each unit. This is why the nursing shortage has seriously handicapped the healthcare industry. Between an aging workforce and pandemic-related burnout, nursing turnover is rising at unprecedented rates. In 2021 alone, the national RN turnover rates rose by 8.1%, bringing up the national average to 27.1%. The American Nurses Association (ANA) projects that at least 275,000 additional nurses will be needed from 2020 to 2030, in order to cover for these departures.
If left unaddressed, facilities will begin to buckle under the weight of mounting case counts and short staffed units. This is why state governments, schools and facilities have begun initiatives to curb these nurse shortages. Different organizations have different approaches to the situation, but the success of these programs will be important to the future of nursing, both immediate and long term. This article will highlight a handful of the most prominent solutions, thus far.
State funding for facilities
State governments across the country are allocating funds to tackle these nurse shortages head-on. Where and how the money is allocated will depend on the state in question. Some states are funneling these funds directly to facilities in the area. For example, the Arizona government allocated $85,000,000 for staffing and overtime expenses. Oregon secured $318 million in federal funding to support nurses in the 2023 fiscal year. Some of these funds will be directed to maternal child programs to increase access to community health centers.
Travel nursing is a more immediate solution to the staffing problem. States have allocated billions of dollars to travel nurse agencies, in order to fill key hospital vacancies as soon as possible. Texas allocated as much as $7 billion dollars of federal funds towards these temporary nurses, while Alabama spent $12.3 million. Facilities are even pushing legislation that would expand their travel nurse pool. In New York and Illinois, lawmakers are working on potentially opting into the Nursing Licensure Compact. In effect, this would allow out-of-state nurses to pick up travel nurse shifts in NYC.
Expanding and developing educational programs
Hospitals will need a steady pipeline of well-trained and properly educated nurses, in order to combat these staffing shortages. This is why nursing education and its development is a major focal point, with many of these initiatives. In South Carolina, the Lexington Medical Center and the University of South Carolina collaborated to build nursing simulations and teaching spaces in the former, for better and more rigorous training. The University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) and City Colleges of Chicago’s Malcolm X College have collaborated to form an accelerated dual program that lets students earn their Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) in the latter, and their Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) in the former. As far back as 2018, Montana State University was granted $700,000 in order to recruit and train nursing students. Several schools are even expanding their nurse education offerings, to provide more options for aspiring students. St. John’s University in New York and Dallas College in Texas are expanding to include BSN programs. At the time of writing, Arizona is also working on legislation that would devote $15 million towards the Nurse Education Investment Pilot Program, which would fund nursing colleges and universities in the area. Hospitals in the area are also working towards expanding current preceptor training programs, in order to accommodate more clinical rotations for nursing students.
More scholarship initiatives
Currently, one of the biggest barriers to entry for nurse education is the cost. BSN programs alone would cost you at least $40,000 and up to $80,000 or even $100,000. This is why numerous nursing schools across the country have expanded their scholarship offerings. In New York, SUNY Erie Community College and Erie County Medical Center are offering over $1,500 in annual scholarships to over 50 students. Healthcare facilities in Texas have begun collaborating with each other to provide free nursing programs and scholarships. Together with the Texas Nurses Association, they are even offering faculty loan repayment programs. In South Carolina, the Self Regional Healthcare Hospital created a new scholarship program for finding and developing Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA). Not only do they reimburse the student’s educational expenses, they also provide employment opportunities and training for them following graduation. The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA)’s detailed nurse shortage initiative includes an emphasis on increasing both the number and scale of nurse scholarship and financial aid opportunities in the area.
To better retain talented nurses, various organizations have devoted their efforts towards increased salaries across the board. The previously-mentioned shortage initiative by the ONA also stresses the importance of raising the base pay for HCPs. Alabama Baptist Universities have dedicated funds towards increasing nurse salaries in-state, as well as financial incentives for nurses taking their Master of Science In Nursing (MSN) to become educators. Hospitals in Florida are not only increasing salaries, they are also providing hefty sign-on bonuses to attract and retain potential nursing hires. Illinois lawmakers have dedicated funds to nursing home facilities, in order to increase the wages for HCPs.
Scratching the Surface
We have covered a number of different initiatives from various hospitals, schools and state governments across the country. Some of these measures seek to address the nursing shortage immediately, while others are investing in the future of nursing years down the line. In truth, a balance must be struck if we want to secure the future of healthcare.. If states only allocated funds for nursing programs, it does nothing to address the current workforce shortage and vice versa. The nursing shortage is a complex, multifaceted issue that requires different angles of attack