You may be aware of the projected shortage of physicians set to arrive by early 2030. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, physician shortages within the U.S. could be between roughly 55,00 and 140,000.
Because there is so much research and emphasis on this shortage, many are working to combat it. We’re seeing changes in USMLE testing requirements, an increase in government-funded residency seats, and efforts within individual states to allow internally trained and licensed individuals to practice within the U.S.
The same progress and awareness cannot be said for the present and growing nursing shortages across the country, however. Nurses play a pivotal role in healthcare and are greatly needed.
Examining Nursing Industry Growth Projections
Such a shortage is likely going undetected because the nursing workforce is so large. Right now, there are just under 4 million registered nurses practicing in the U.S, and while that may seem substantial, it’s not enough to satisfy projected growth patterns over the next five years. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing suggests that 200,000 new nursing positions could open every year through 2026. This figure does not account for the nursing positions that will need to be filled as those currently employed enter retirement.
If any positive has arisen from COVID-19, one could argue it is the renewed interest in healthcare and nursing specifically. At the pandemic’s onset and throughout its course, nurses and physicians have become heroes. Those on the frontlines have inspired young people to consider taking on the profession resulting in a jump of 10-15% more applicants to nursing programs. Unfortunately, admission rates are not keeping up, leaving nursing hopefuls on waiting lists no progress being made in satisfying nursing demands.
Drivers of Rising Nursing Shortages
1. Low Nursing School Admission Rates
At the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, nursing programs saw an uptick in applicants. Despite early industry interest, highly qualified applicants are being turned away. According to modest reports, 1/3 of nursing program applicants received rejection letters this year. For certain institutions, rejection rates are much higher; one example is Georgetown University which turned away 87.7% of applicants to The School of Nursing and Health Studies. Long Beach City College, which boasted 1,200 eligible nursing school applicants, only accepted 32 students. Why is there so much rejection nationwide? Because nursing programs simply do not have the funding, staff, resources, and space to educate larger student bodies.
Some argue that new security and safety protocols and a lack of PPE are mainly to blame for caps on nursing program seats. While COVID-19-related limitations may affect the amount of clinical training available, it is not the only factor affecting low admission rates. Nursing program rejection rates were at an all-time high well before the pandemic.
2. An Increasing Elderly Population
As the U.S. population, specifically baby boomers, near retirement age, many will experience health issues, with some of requiring consistent and skilled medical attention from nurses. Nursing shortages will likely be more concentrated in locations where more of the population is elderly; California, Texas, New Jersey, and South Carolina will be the most depleted of these healthcare professionals. As medical care continues to improve and new technology increases, life expectancy will match this, extending the length of time patients will require consistent support.
3. Large Numbers of Nurses Nearing Retirement
As the general public ages, so do the nurses currently practicing. It’s estimated that over 50 of practicing U.S. nurses are above the age of 50. Between 2017 and 2030, 1 million nurses are expected to retire. With stagnant nursing admission rates and an increase in positions available year over year, it’s possible that the number of new nurses entering the workforce will not be enough to fill the roles of those leaving. Such projections depend on the retirement decisions of individual nurses so it is difficult to come to know how large a loss can be expect and when it will arrive.
4. Low Job Satisfaction and Burnout
As with all jobs, nursing has positives and negatives. Many nurses join the field because they love being able to positively influence a patient’s quality of life. Many nurses leave the field because they feel burned out and aren’t given enough time to have a good quality of life themselves. According to a recent student, 33% of registered nurses exit the field within two years of entering it. Reasons these individuals leave include high levels of work with few rewards and intense emotional stress.
Evidence of the great expectations nurses much meet was documented and shared widely during the beginning months of the COVID-19 pandemic when nurses worked extensive hours with minimal breaks or time to rest. While COVID-19 was an anomaly that many argue could not have been prepared for, we should do everything in our power now to ensure there are hands to lighten the load should future pandemics arise. If each hospital, clinic, and healthcare system introduced additional members to their team, workloads would be more manageable and nurses might have time to destress. This would limit the rate of turnover among nursing professionals.
How to Expand the Nursing Workforce
Increasing school admission rates, providing enough care for the elderly, and developing a workforce that can support the mental health and retirement goals of those within it require the same solution—expanding nursing programs. To offer additional seats, programs should consider expanding their faculty and lobbying for additional funding. While both action items can take time and significant effort, there’s an easy way for nursing programs to expand quickly—they can introduce new clinical training options.
Partnering with a clinical experience provider like AMOpportunities can give nursing schools access to clinical training at noteworthy clinics, hospitals, and health systems across the U.S. Working with AMO does not require additional funding and can allow schools to outsource their training meaning they won’t need to hire additional instructors or support larger sites to accommodate a great number of trainees.
Dependable Clinical Training Solutions
AMO has been providing high-quality clinical training to healthcare students since 2013. More than 3.500 individuals have completed rotations at their 250+ in-person and virtual sites. While the variety of medical specialties offered by AMO is a huge benefit, it is the support services and flexibility that are most impressive. AMOpportunities works with medical and nursing schools to ensure the experiences provided meet institution-specific practicum hour requirements or satisfy or core and elective rotation needs.
When schools partner with a company like AMO, they can increase their enrollment capacities, oversee student progress, and provide diverse learning opportunities that allow their student body to network and gain real-world experience in a new setting. High-quality, unique, and widespread clinical training solutions like those offered at AMO can play a significant role in increasing the healthcare workforce. To learn more about AMO’s clinical training solutions, click here.