Combatting the Nurse Shortage

Amidst growing demand and shrinking supply, the future of nursing lies in the hands of the next generations. With insight from Shannon Block, Chief Administrator Officer (CAO) of Equiliem, we consider the importance of building a pipeline that extends to nursing students and empowers them to succeed to combat the growing nurse shortage.

Nursing is one of the most in-demand occupations in the United States. In March 2020, the profession faced a shortage driven by an aging population; 22% of the registered nurse population working in hospitals was over age 55. Then came the pandemic, and many nurses—after a brutal stretch of putting their lives on the line and enduring exhausting work conditions—decided to exit the profession, some many years ahead of their anticipated retirement.

Today, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates job growth for nurses to continue on a 6% growth trajectory. Meanwhile, hospital systems are examining how they can win a new generation of nurses’ hearts, minds, and hands.

Focusing on Nursing Students

In the U.K., the shortage has led to an unprecedented tactic of the government stepping in with no-strings-attached funds to pay for nursing education. In hopes of filling 40,000 jobs, students choosing to study in England receive the equivalent of $6,250 in tuition payments that don’t have to be repaid, even if the student decides not to pursue a nursing career.

While this kind of incentive is not on the legislative docket here in the U.S., attention on undergraduate programs is a crucial component to filling the pipeline long term, according to Shannon Block, who’s been overseeing Equiliem’s healthcare staffing division. Block believes employers can benefit by starting the recruiting process sooner, even before students begin the onsite portion of their education, known as clinicals.

Block said, “We’re seeing that the recruiting process for the next generation is about building relationships, and relationships take time. Suppose healthcare systems can invest in understanding student goals and desires and be responsive to those needs. In that case, we can attract nursing talent to the profession.” She added, “Given what nurses have been through, it’s time to consider how to support their needs long term, including reviewing pay levels, opportunities for growth and advancement, and resources to support the mental and emotional demands of their job.”

How Much Can a New Nursing Grad Expect to Earn?

According to Salary.com, the average New Graduate Registered Nurse salary in New York, NY, is $80,014 as of May 1, 2023. The average New Graduate Registered Nurse salary in New Jersey is $74,968 as of the same date.

According the Nurse.org, the top ten highest-paying nursing jobs this year pay between about $100,000 and $195,000 and are specialty-related positions like a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (earning the highest income for the profession), ICU Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, or Nursing Administrators.

Balancing Pros and Cons

New students pursue nursing for a variety of reasons. Still, some common themes are job stability, work-life flexibility of choosing shifts or working part-time, travel, or telecommuting, and the potential for the personal satisfaction of knowing that they made a difference for people. On the downside, the job has the potential for burnout, stress, injury, and exposure to infectious diseases.

Block said that she had been deeply inspired by seeing how nurses rose to the occasion to give their skills and talents, especially throughout the New York-New Jersey area when the pandemic was at its worst. “Nursing is truly a role like no other and requires an enormous capacity for being selfless. The solution to this shortage is not a magic bullet, but in doing our best to set people up for sustainable success.”

Tips for Recruiting Success 

  • Transparency for a Good Fit.

Recruiters must deeply understand the culture of the healthcare team and organization and the nurse’s expectations, skills, and strengths. “To find someone who is a good fit, it takes not only understanding of mutual needs but accurate representation from each party,” Block said.

  • Establish a Nurse Residency Program.

Nurse residency programs are a way to support new graduates during their transition from academia to professional practice. She said, “These programs provide additional training, mentorship, and support that can increase retention and job satisfaction.”

  • Prioritize Career Development. 

Establish a learning culture where nurses can access continuing education and specialty certifications. Block said, “Professional growth and advancement opportunities are crucial.”

  • Offer Flexibility in Work Schedules

Part-time and alternative shifts can help nurses with work-life balance and reduce stress. “Flexibility can be a way to retain talent,” Block said.

  • Recognition and Reward

Healthcare systems realized the value in recognition for nurses during the pandemic and many are building awards and professional accolades into their culture. Block said, “The pandemic did shine a light on nurses, and that outpour of appreciation, I think, kept some people going. Recognizing people doing the right thing builds a culture of strength and helps sustain excellence.”

A Continuing Conversation

While focusing more closely on the needs of existing nurses is part of a solution to the nursing shortage, recruiting new students into the profession is certainly going to play a big role for the foreseeable future. The pandemic has brought to light how vital the role of nursing is to the delivery of effective healthcare, and illuminated the need to make changes so that people not only want to pursue the career, but choose to stay through difficult times, and can do so without jeopardizing their essential well-being.

At Equiliem, we’re here to continue the conversation about this issue and collaborate on solutions.

About Equiliem

Equiliem (www.equiliem.com) believes in empowering success. It’s our job to cultivate relationships that connect people and employers in a way that is inclusive, intelligent, and allows both to thrive. 

Across the U.S., leading companies in healthcare, government, light industrial manufacturing, professional services, and energy rely on us for their workforce solutions. Our recruiting and HR services include contract and direct hire staffing, Payrolling/EOR, Independent Contractor Compliance, and Managed Services.

Since 1995, we’ve helped shape our industry. Today, we continue to research, ask questions, and continuously enhance the candidate journey and client experience.