Columbia, SC — Despite record levels of college enrollment and growing interest in nursing careers among Millennials, the shortage of qualified nurses isn’t expected to ease anytime soon. That was the message from Joe Dunmire, executive director of Qualivis, at a recent conference of healthcare hiring managers and recruiters.
“Statistics can be misleading. Currently there are nearly 3 million jobs for registered nurses, and there are more than 2.9 million licensed RNs, which doesn’t seem like a significant shortage,” he said. “But 21 percent of licensed RNs are not engaged in patient care, which makes the actual deficit nearly 700,000.”
Nationally, expectations are that there will be more than a million RN vacancies by 2022, he said, more than twice the deficit of the last major nursing shortage.
Qualivis, a workforce solutions company, helps roughly 400 hospitals nationwide fill their vacancies, so Dunmire sees the challenges of finding and keeping good nurses on a daily basis. “Today, nursing is second only to the hospitality industry in turnover,” he said. “Roughly one in five nurses leaves the job after one year. And the average cost of losing a nurse is nearly $50,000.”
Dunmire outlined several solutions, including:
- Engaging in a formal on-boarding process to help new employees acclimate quickly;
- Making strategic use of travel nurses to help give permanent staff better work-life balance and flexible schedules;
- Converting current employees into recruiters through referral bonuses;
- Developing opportunities for job-sharing, training and career paths throughout the workplace and health system;
- Recruiting international nurses for long-term assignments;
- Collaborating with local colleges and offering internships to help build a pipeline;
- Investing in initiatives to improve the quality of the workplace, such as wellness programs and employee engagement in decision-making.
“There are a few basic facts that we can all agree on,” Dunmire said. “One, nursing continues to be one of the most in-demand professions today. Two, nursing continues to be the most trusted profession in America. And, three, there is a wealth of research showing a direct correlation between quality nurses and positive patient outcomes. For all of these reasons, we need to ensure that there is always an adequate supply of quality nurses.”