by Chris Musillo

Reuters reports that health care facilities all across the US are facing dire nurse staffing shortages, which are leading to increased expenses related to staffing. They interviewed over 20 hospitals across the US and found nearly universal concerns tied to a lack of nurses.

Reuters cites a Staffing Industry Analysts report that says that the “cost nationwide for travel nurses alone nearly doubled over three years to $4.8 billion in 2017”. For instance, “university-affiliated J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown is spending $10.4 million in 2017 compared with $3.6 million a year earlier to hire and retain nurses.”

The article highlights the classic reason for the shortage, which have long been on the industry’s radar. For instance:

Baby Boom Generation Demand. The US Baby Boom generation, those born 1946-1964, has reached an age where they will increasingly demand nursing services. As The Atlantic points out:

Today, there are more Americans over the age of 65 than at any other time in U.S. history. Between 2010 and 2030, the population of senior citizens will increase by 75 percent to 69 million, meaning one in five Americans will be a senior citizen; in 2050, an estimated 88.5 million people in the U.S. will be aged 65 and older.

Aging Nursing Workforce. Out of the 3 million US nurses, one million are over age 50 and will be expected to retire in the next 10-15 years.

Few Nurse Educators. Nursing Ph.D. programs have been unable to attract nursing faculty. These nurses Ph.D’s have traditionally made up large numbers of nursing school faculty. Part of the reason for this is that a Bachelor nursing graduate is usually offered a job at graduation, thus reducing that graduate’s incentive to seek out graduate nursing education. Without a dramatic increase in nurse faculty, it will be impossible for the US to supply enough nurses to meet the demand.

Distribution Challenges. Some of the American nursing problem stems from the lack of mobility ion the nursing force. Nurses are often unwilling to leave their hometowns for jobs in rural areas or high-nurse demand areas, even if those positions pay better.

Lack of Foreign-Nurses. Because of a terribly though-out US immigration policy, it takes a nurse from the Philippines many years to legally obtain a visa, in spite of the nursing shortage. The Philippines has traditionally been the greatest supplier of US nurses. The story is even worse for India, which would certainly be able to supply the US with many nurses if it did not take 10 years for a fully-qualified nurse to obtain a US visa. As a result of the lack of US nursing visa options, foreign-trained nurses have declined sitting for the US licensing exams.

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