A female nurse looking out of the window

Yes…We Are in a Full-Blown Nursing Shortage Crisis

What more can we say or do? Why isn’t anyone listening? We work in harsh environments. We are underpaid. We work short. We are burned out. We have been calling out for patient safety for years now. We’ve asked for safe staffing ratios. We are leaving the profession. 

For decades industry experts have been sounding the alarm on a nursing shortage, but little has been done. Now, I believe we have transitioned into full-blown crisis mode. As co-owner of Signature Healthcare, a Midwest based nurse staffing agency, I‘ve watched it gradually worsen over the past 17 years. I’ve seen some of the best nurses burn out right in front of me and leave the profession they once loved. And it’s not nursing causing the burn out, it‘s the lack of support from our healthcare system and our very own government.  What do they think will happen when nurses are continually expected to practice in unsafe environments?  Like anyone, we put up with it for awhile, but now we’ve been pushed too far.  And it’s not just nurses leaving the profession. Unlicensed nursing assistants are leaving their roles, too, thereby increasing the nurses workload. The question remains: What is the path going forward? 

I believe it starts with higher enrollment at our colleges and we need Congress to pass the current proposal, Future Advancement of Academic Nursing (FAAN) Act, which would support funding to nursing schools, minority-serving institutions such as historically Black colleges and universities and medically underserved communities to improve education programs and expand their ability to respond to community health emergencies. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, universities turned away 66,000 qualified applicants for bachelor of nursing programs and it’s no better at the community college level. I recently read an article of a community college in Southern California who had 1,200 nursing student applicants, just 32 were able to enroll due to lack of nursing faculty. How did it get this far out of control?  Why do our educational institutions not have adequate funding to support robust nursing programs and pay educators competitive wages?  Statistical data shows nurses with advanced degrees tend to make significantly higher wages working in clinical settings versus working as a college nursing instructor. This therefore leads to teaching vacancies and colleges are unable to expand their nursing programs and only enroll small numbers of students. 

If we continue down this path, it is projected by 2030 we will have a national shortage of over one million nurses. One rural Iowa hospital nurse administrator told me she was trying to fill upward of 8 full time nurse vacancies, and only had 12 nurses on staff. Trust me when I say those 12 nurses are exhausted.  I have first hand knowledge of the nursing shortage in the Midwest, but it’s not just here, it’s in every article I read and in every state. One hospital in Connecticut has halted inpatient and outpatient surgeries since June and has since announced plans to discontinue inpatient surgical services permanently and will be shutting down its labor and delivery unit due to staffing shortages. According to Matthew Allen, a registered nurse in New York and a board member of the New York State Nurses Association, the shortage in New York is at an “all-time high.† On August 9, 2022, The Maryland Hospital Association set up a task force to attack the nursing shortage in their state. They estimate one in every four hospital nursing positions is vacant and for the nurses left, 62% reported they’re considering leaving the profession.  It’s clear this crisis is bigger than just the hospitals. We need our lawmakers and regulators to take action and pass bills to fund our colleges and get money to our fragile healthcare systems immediately. 

I salute The University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Nursing as they have been implementing measures to increase student capacity for several years.  Their efforts remain focused in three primary areas; increase student capacity by continually opening new state of the art nursing education buildings, add new programs that respond to the nursing workforce (plus adding accelerated and advanced options) and they continually revisit their nursing curriculum preparing nurses for modern day demands and challenges. The long term goal is to prepare more nurses and educators that will be able to help put an end to this ever snowballing nursing shortage crisis. 

Here at Signature Healthcare we‘re on a mission to bring awareness to our community and gain interest in the profession of nursing. For the past 9 years we’ve educated and prepared an annual average of 350 nursing assistants. Many of our past students transition into nursing school while others work in clinical settings providing much needed daily cares to our ever growing elderly population.  If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a certified nursing assistant in the Des Moines area and need assistance with tuition, please forward me a short summary of your intent and career goals. We‘ve recently implemented a new program and will be awarding free and reduced tuition to students each month!  Submit your summary to: christi@mysighealth.com.

By: Christi J Hokel, MS, BSN, RN – Signature Healthcare – 14225 University Ave. Ste 130 Waukee, IA 50263