You’ve no doubt heard the stats. It’s estimated the US will need 15% more RNs, 12% more LPNs, and 11% more nursing assistants by 2026 (Bureau of Labour Statistics). A whopping 1.1 million more nurses are needed to avoid a nursing shortage. Wowza!
The balance of supply (you!) and demand (job openings), has been cyclical through time. Sometimes there are more nurses, sometimes more jobs. The imbalance currently projected is due to a whole host of factors.
“1.1 million more nurses are needed to avoid a nursing shortage.”
What’s behind the healthcare staffing crisis?
The demographics of the US are changing. Our population is growing and because people are living longer than ever, they face more health issues. By 2030, it’s predicted that one of every five Americans will be over 65 (US Census Bureau). Chronic conditions like arthritis, dementia, diabetes, and obesity are also on the rise. More people are demanding different kinds care.
Changing economic conditions also impact healthcare staffing, such as increased access to health insurance coverage. Financial constraints on hospitals also play a part and mean that more patients are discharged quickly, often when they still need care. This has meant an increased demand for nurses in community- and home-based settings – like long-term care facilities, outpatient care centers, and in people’s homes.
“RNs and LPNs make up the largest healthcare workforce in the United States.”
Shifts in workforce availability further complicate the situation. Some parts of the country are seeing a deficit of newly trained workers, and rates of retirement are expected to be high. The American Nurses Association reports that about 500,000 RNs will retire by 2022.
There will be an overall shortage of healthcare workers across the board, but nurses will be impacted the most. Together, RNs and LPNs make up the largest healthcare workforce in the United States. They will certainly feel the heat.
What it means for your workplace experience
Chronic understaffing already impacts many nurses. We all know that nurses have to work exceedingly hard when units are short-staffed. Not only this, but they feel the effects via their patients. A survey by influential Nurse Abnormalities found that 74% of nurses would rather have better nurse-to-patient ratios than more pay. Anecdotal evidence suggested that those who prioritized pay in the survey already had strict nurse-to-patient ratios in their units. Regardless, this percentage speaks to just how understaffed most departments are and how burnt out many nurses feel. Nurses work selflessly and tirelessly even as they are assigned more patients than they can effectively care for. Unfortunately, in many states this situation may only get worse.
“74% of nurses would rather have better nurse-to-patient ratios than more pay.”
Does this shortage affect all places equally?
Luckily, not. While the shortage of healthcare workers is a popular refrain, it impacts some states more than others. Why is that? Well, some states train more nurses, some train less, and the vast majority of nurses practice in their home state. Furthermore, some states have older workforces and some more demand.
“California, Texas, New Jersey, and South Carolina will each see a shortage of 100,000+ RNs by 2030.”
A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services drives home this variation by state. Looking for the most opportunities as an RN? California, Texas, New Jersey, and South Carolina will each see a shortage of 100,000+ RNs by 2030. By contrast, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia are expected to have a surplus of 20,000+ RNs at that time.
The geography of jobs also varies by nursing profession. LPNs are expected to find the most opportunities in Texas (with a projected deficit of 33,500 full-time LPN positions), followed by North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Maryland, Tennessee, Indiana, and Pennsylvania (each with projected deficits between 8,300 and 18,700). Meanwhile, competition will be tight in Ohio (which expects to see a surplus of 4,100 LPNs) and in California (with a projected surplus of 3,600 by 2030).
So while there may be a national shortage, this impacts local labour markets differently.
What it means for your job prospects
In many places of the country, healthcare workers can expect to have a greater range of employment opportunities and be a bit choosier about their work. As hospitals compete for the best candidates, you can expect to see better pay and better benefits.
There will likely be more opportunities for travel nurses as well, as facilities struggle to supplement the shortfalls. It’s definitely worth considering if travel nursing is for you. Regardless, if you are in a surplus state, you may want to consider looking outside your state to places where staff shortages are most acute.
Want to know what’s out there? HealthcareWings can help you find the best job matches based on your unique experience, interests, specialty, and ambitions. Sign up free and see what’s possible!