Many hospitals and hiring managers declare they can’t find enough nurses to fill their vacant positions. In fact, according to a June 2012 HealthCallings.com survey of healthcare recruiters, 42 percent of the respondents said their organization “always needs” to fill nursing positions.
On the other hand, registered nurses across the country are having trouble finding a nursing job. So, what’s really going on in the world of nursing? Is there a shortage of nurses, or too many underqualified nurses in our midst? Here are a few facts to help answer that question.
Experts say there is a shortage
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) nursing is the top occupation in terms of job growth through at least 2020. The AACN believes there is a nursing shortage, especially in the South and West. The Bureau of Labor Statistics concurs with AACN, with a 2012 jobs report saying, “Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 26 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will occur primarily because of technological advancements; an increased emphasis on preventative care; and the large, aging baby-boomer population who will demand more healthcare services as they live longer and more active lives.”
Some signs suggest there is an abundance of nurses
A shortage of RNs – many with years of experience – certainly wasn’t in evidence at a 2012 Cleveland Clinic recruitment fair. At the three-day event, the 11-hospital system was looking to fill about 600 nursing positions. Almost 1,600 RNs or soon-to-graduate students showed up at the fair. That’s almost three applicants for every job.
An RN shortage isn’t evident at Scripps Health in San Diego, either. In 2011–2012, they received almost 100,000 applications for 1,000 positions. “The quality of the candidates we are selecting is stellar,” says Scripps Health’s Vice President of Nursing, Mary Ellen Doyle, RN, BSN, MBA.
Another way to look at supply and demand
Ellen McCarthy, senior human resources representative at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., says what appears to be a nursing glut is a glitch caused by the recession. When the economy turned sour in 2007, in most parts of the country, demand for healthcare services of all types started dropping because those who lost their jobs also lost their health insurance. With less demand, many hospitals were forced to cut staff and increase the patient–to–RN ratio. And, finally, experienced nurses who would have retired didn’t and/or those who were working part-time went to full-time (often because of a spouse’s job loss). “There’s definitely a shortage,” says McCarthy, “but it’s masked by the recession.”
Too many new nurses?
The recession’s impact isn’t the only reason there’s an over-supply of nurses right now. Simply put, U.S. nursing programs may be churning out too many new nurses (without a BSN), despite the fact that nursing schools complain there aren’t enough instructors and educators. There may be an even bigger glut in the future. A 2010 report, Digging Deeper Into Data on Registered Nurses, indicated that – at least through 2015 – U.S. nursing programs may be graduating between 57,000 and 86,000 more nurses each year than there are openings for them.
Why so many new nursing grads?
A major contributor to the large numbers of new nurses is the increase in the growing number of nursing schools, especially associate degree (AA/AND) programs at community colleges and/or for-profit nursing schools. According to a Carnegie Foundation report, 60 percent of newly graduated and licensed nurses come out of ADN programs. But they aren’t hired, especially by urban hospital systems, at the same rates as those coming out of BSN programs.
At San Diego Hospital, only 10 to 15 percent of new hires are two-year grads. At Saint Lukes Hospital in Kansas City, it’s between 4 and 6 percent. (In both situations, however, those numbers may be skewed because of the large number of four-year nursing schools in both areas.) Few of Cleveland Clinic’s or Scripps Health’s new hires were new grads, either.
Experience and education level count
“Employers aren’t looking for new grads, they are looking for experienced nurses. But if new grads don’t get experience because they aren’t hired and trained, where will the OR and ICU nurses we need in the future come from? They don’t grow on trees.” says Joanne Spetz, PhD, FAAN, a nationally-respected professor of health economics at the University of California San Francisco.
What’s your take on the “nursing shortage?” Real or not?
© HealthCallings.com, Dice Holdings Inc., 2012