Thursday, February 10th, 2022
A nationwide staffing shortage in nursing has plagued the industry for decades, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it worse. While many solutions have been pioneered over the years to reverse the trend, it’s now clear that this crisis cannot be solved by any one stakeholder acting alone. The education system has limited capacity to train new nurses, and health systems lose many nurses to attrition. Solving this crisis requires new solutions.
During a January webinar hosted by Becker’s Hospital Review and sponsored by CastleBranch, Nicole Bradford, vice president of research and development at CastleBranch, described today’s nursing crisis and examined potentials tools and strategies to address the issue through the use of sophisticated data collection and analysis that provides visibility into potential new graduate nursing candidates before an employment decision is made.
- A longstanding, nationwide nurse staffing shortage has been exacerbated by COVID-19. The United States faces a nurse shortage that industry leaders have warned about for years. The pandemic has made the shortage worse than previously anticipated. “This nursing staffing challenge has risen to the level of crisis,” Ms. Bradford said. This supply problem cannot be addressed simply by paying current nurses more or engaging in mass nursing hires, hoping that new candidates work out.
- The education pipeline alone cannot solve this crisis. “Nursing programs are the foundational element to adding more supply,” Ms. Bradford said. Still, most nursing programs have limited capacity and turn away qualified candidates each semester. If a nursing program knows its local market needs additional nurses, the program may admit more candidates, but challenges remain. Their calculations must consider that a portion of those who begin a nursing program will not complete it.
Programs also have insufficient faculty to increase the number of students, because nurses can earn more practicing nursing than teaching it. The system also lacks capacity for additional preceptors and clinical experiences to support additional nursing students. COVID-19 has only worsened this situation.
- Healthcare employers lack sufficient information to make systemic improvements, including enhancing retention of nurses. Healthcare employers place significant recruiting demands on educational partners due to the expected churn in employment. But many graduates of nursing programs leave the state where they studied and do not become part of the local employment pool. And those nurses that do get hired locally may not stay with a facility long enough to provide a return on investment from the hiring process.
At the same time, health systems have widely struggled to meaningfully address nurse turnover.
- The problem can best be addressed by collaborative tools and leveraging shared data to work holistically. Healthcare employers and educators can leverage the techniques and tools of supply chain management to help resolve these challenges. This involves increasing the coordination and flow of data in real time to enable educators and employers to collaborate in an effort to reduce turnover and increase the supply of qualified nurses.
The nursing supply chain is not linear and is more complex than a supply chain of goods — hospitals need to have a second level of data that comes directly from the individual students and educational partners. As new nurses leave to find opportunities that fit their interests better, medical facilities are only finding out about those interests during exit interviews – or not at all. Knowing and understanding personal info about nurses before they are hired is essential to creating the perfect fit, thus it’s critical to gather information about nursing students throughout their journey to and through professional life (TTPL).
Humanizing supply chain management requires accounting for individual decision-making. “” Layering in human information and following appropriate privacy rules allow employers to connect the right newly licensed nurse with the right open position in the right environment. The collaborative processes and tools communicate this information effectively across the entire nursing supply chain. Increased data also enables employers to better meet nurses’ career needs and retain them.