8 Nursing Shortage Causes and Solutions: What to Know in 2024

Nursing Shortage Causes and Solutions: What to Know in 2024

As America prepares for its first-ever federal staffing minimum in nursing homes, the ongoing nursing shortage poses a more urgent challenge than ever before. However, hospitals, clinics, and other providers are hit just as hard hit as long-term care facilities. But what’s driving the shortage — and is it getting worse? Here’s a look at where things stand today, and how the nursing shortage causes are playing out in 2024.

The Nursing Shortage in 2024: Is It Getting Better or Worse?

Is the nursing shortage getting worse in 2024? The answer depends on where you’re located, and what type of nurses you’re hiring.

“We’re certainly feeling it,” as the Executive Director of the Georgia Nursing Workforce Center recently told reporters. Estimated to be the second hardest-hit state, Georgia has “more than 20% fewer” RNs than it needs across the state.

However, that’s just one example among many. In Arizona and New Hampshire, to name just a couple other states, lawmakers and public officials are responding to the effects of a years-long shortage. For example, taking direct action to expand nursing school attendance and admit out-of-state nurses, among other initiatives.

As far as the nurses themselves on the front lines, the causes of the shortage are getting worse, with almost two in three surveyed nurses actively worried about the future of their profession. For instance, “91% of nurses believe the nursing shortage is getting worse, and 79% report that their units are inadequately staffed,” as Nurse.org’s most recent State of Nursing survey concluded.

How is the Ongoing Nurse Shortage Affecting Employers?

Why is the nursing shortage such a cause for concern? Lack of available nurses often leads to understaffing, which can jeopardize the quality of patient care. Subsequently, that can cause damage across the care continuum, affecting outcomes, lengths of stay, patient satisfaction rates, referrals. Ultimately, this affects other areas such as facility revenue and reimbursement.

Understaffing also increases overwork, burnout and turnover, and is often cited as a leading cause of nursing strikes. As a result, this affects revenue by driving up overtime and the need for temporary workers. Perhaps worse of all, understaffing exacerbates the nursing shortage by causing more nurses to burn out and retire early.

Top Causes of Today’s Nursing Shortage

The country has dealt with healthcare workforce shortages before — for example, in the aftermath of World War II. But make no mistake! Today’s nursing shortage poses unique challenges thanks to a series of historic causes that include:

  • An aging population, which leads to more patients needing care (whether in-facility or at home), and more demand for nurses to provide it.
  • Higher acuity of patients and residents, which further increases demand, particularly for more skilled and specialized nurses.
  • A shortage of doctors, which is increasing demand for nurses to fill in the gaps.
  • Regional disparities, where workers increasingly stick to higher-paying urban areas.
  • Growing rates of stress and burnout, which increase job dissatisfaction and turnover.
  • Lack of nurse educators and an inability for nursing schools to meet demand, with tens of thousands of “qualified applications” turned away each year.
  • Working conditions that are perceived as poor by a whopping 58% of nurses, and which they see as a direct effect of understaffing.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic, which acted as a force multiplier by intensifying most of these factors, like higher patient acuity, burnout, and turnover.

Nursing Shortage Solutions

Left unaddressed, the causes and nursing shortage itself will only get worse. While there are no easy answers, there are steps that can help alleviate the impact. For instance, today’s healthcare employers can:

Help Train Nursing Students

Partnering with local schools to train nurses can boost the number of qualified candidates and provide employers with a motivated new generation of workforce — one that is otherwise difficult to recruit. This opportunity can help address a key cause of the growing nursing shortage. As an added bonus, the result is also an enhanced employers reputation as community partners and supporters of nursing careers.

Rethink Pay, Compensation & Benefits

From the perspective of the nation’s nursing professionals, salary is a growing cause of shortages. It’s also the second-biggest drawback of a job they otherwise love. For instance, even though 55% received a pay increase in 2022, 75% “still feel underpaid” (per Nurse.org’s numbers).

PRO TIP: Employers who are unable to stretch their budgets for additional pay can consider other compensation options like sign-on and referral bonuses, relocation incentives, or a competitive bonuses package. They can also use contingency staff to offer core staff greater flexibility to take off time — a core benefit for many healthcare workers.

Employer Guide: How Has Nurse Salary and Compensation Changed?

Improve Working Conditions

Working conditions continue to be a cause of turnover and driver of the nursing shortage. However, in a job where as many as 53% of nurses feel like they can’t take sick days, offering more flexible staffing options can be a way to curb turnover and attract new workers. Employers can also consider improving working conditions in other ways. For example, supporting self-care and offering a greater level of recognition for staff achievements.

PRO TIP: It’s important to listen and show nurses you care! Ask for their preferences before setting a schedule and do your best to fulfill them.

Support Professional Development

A robust internal promotion program and a reputation for helping nurses develop essential career skills are both huge assets to attracting new nurses. This is especially true particularly in competitive areas or among hard-to-land specialties. It also helps retain ambitious nurses, and satisfies younger workers’ preference for a job that offers active career advancement.

ACTION ITEM: From leadership training to continuing education, get our tips for providing nursing professional development.

Find a Trustworthy Nurse Staffing Partner

Given the severity of the nursing shortage, having a partner to help fill critical staffing gaps is an operational necessity. From easily finding and recruiting licensed nurses nationwide to resources for your external float pool, the strategic use of contingency staffing can serve as a cornerstone in any facility’s strategy.

PRO TIP: Choose a healthcare staffing partner who can help you create a long-term contingency staffing strategy. This helps deliver the best ROI, operational efficiency, and better equip you to tackle today’s nurse shortage causes.

Get a Better Handle on Nursing Shortage Causes

Unless employers address the top causes behind today’s nursing shortage, they’ll continue to face shortfalls in employment — and potentially, care and revenue. At CareerStaff, we’re here to deliver dynamic, tailored staffing and workforce solutions designed to fit your unique needs.

Get Started Now: Contact us today to find out how our Joint Commission-Certified solutions can help your facility or request nurses now below.