There’s a looming crisis in healthcare that no one is talking about: Our nurses might be on the brink of extinction

There’s a looming crisis in healthcare that no one is talking about: Our nurses might be on the brink of extinction

In 2015, the Ohio Board of Nursing reported that only 85% of its licensees were employed as nurses, and more than half of the unemployed nurses were not even seeking a job in nursing. Meanwhile, about 30% of Ohio’s working RNs are over the age of 55.1 This means that roughly a third of our working nurses will age out of the profession in the next decade, at precisely the same time that aging baby-boomers will increase the demand for nursing services.

Academia is doing its best to produce new graduates, but space in nursing programs is limited and long waiting lists are not uncommon. Furthermore, the number of graduating nurses does not represent a 1:1 increase in the number of practicing nurses.  This is because many students currently enrolled in a BSN program entered the profession with a two year degree. They already have a nursing license and are working in the field, but now they are pursuing a bachelor’s degree—either as a condition of continued employment, or to advance their careers. While that’s commendable, the backlog of new applicants grows longer with each working nurse who goes back to school.

And increasing the number of new graduates is only part of the solution anyway, since new grads are an especially vulnerable segment of the workforce. About half of the turnover reported by hospitals involves nurses with less than 1 year of experience, and these new nurses remain at high risk of leaving their jobs throughout their first 5 years of employment.2  

One reason for this is professional burnout. A 2013 fact sheet from the AFL-CIO stated that 30% of nurses report a level of emotional exhaustion that meets the criteria for high burnout.3 As the demographic forces described above exert increasing pressure on our remaining nurses, the levels of stress, burnout and attrition will only get worse. Retention is paramount, but a recent survey reported that only half of responding hospitals had a formalized strategy to stop these losses.2

Our solution is Nightingale Nest, the first free-standing, full-time enterprise in Ohio dedicated to supporting our nurses.

The goal of Nightingale Nest is quite simple: To reduce stress and professional burnout among nurses by:

  • Providing meaningful recognition and appreciation for the talents and efforts of our nurse colleagues in the form of an organization wholly devoted to their well-being
  • Creating a supportive community where nurses can laugh, cry, heal and learn together
  • Promoting the use of healthy behaviors, holistic techniques and complementary/alternative modalities for self-care
  • Developing nurses as models of these behaviors and techniques in their workplaces and communities

Although our services will be exclusively aimed at enhancing the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of nurses, the benefits will extend to many other stakeholders, including healthcare employers, insurers and consumers. By addressing this unmet need, we hope to mitigate the coming crisis in nursing and create a ripple effect that will positively impact the health of all Ohioans.

We believe that we are developing something unique and valuable for our profession, and we hope that you will agree.  Your input will inform our choices, and your thoughts and opinions are always welcome here.

1. Ohio Board of Nursing. (2015). Registered Nurse Workforce Data Summary. Available online at: http://www.nursing.ohio.gov/Workforce.htm

2. NSI Nursing Solutions, Inc. (2016). National Healthcare Retention and RN Staffing Report. Available online at: http://www.nsinursingsolutions.com/Files/assets/library/retentioninstitute/NationalHealthcareRNRetentionReport2016.pdf

3. Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO. (2013). Nursing: A Profile of the Profession. Available online at: http://dpeaflcio.org/wp-content/uploads/nursing/2013.pdf

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