Health care workers have been hailed as heroes as they worked the frontlines caring for patients with COVID-19, but the supply of nurses isn’t keeping up with the demand.
According to a report released by the Florida Hospital Association in late September, the state of Florida could face a shortfall of almost 60,000 nurses by 2035.
“It’s just a constant pulling and tugging to be able to get the right resources. At the end of the day, there is clearly a mismatch of supply and demand and it just kind of keeps fluctuating based upon how COVID is hitting different parts of the country,” said Julie Staub, the Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer with Jackson Health System.
Some hospitals in South Florida say the recent national health care worker shortage, which was already in place before COVID, could be based on pandemic burnout or multiple factors like baby boomers retiring from their nursing jobs earlier than expected or taking higher-paid jobs as travel nurses.
“Throughout the 19 months of the pandemic, we have lost some nurses besides the nurses that retired earlier than they had anticipated. We lost some nurses to take very lucrative travel assignments themselves,” said Maggie Hansen, Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive with Memorial Healthcare System.
Hansen says despite the hospital offering competitive salaries and other incentives, retention of nurses can be a struggle. She went on to say that at Memorial Healthcare System, they have worked with their staff to ensure no one was terminated due to vaccine requirements, but they’ve had to adjust to the demand for nurses.
“We have 800 RN vacancies right now. We’ve had to take some measures to close the gap between what we have and what we need,” said Hansen.
Hansen says the hospital system has also relied on their nursing residents and fellowship program as a short and long-term strategy to meet the needs of their patients.
Jackson Health Medical System has faced similar staffing challenges.
"We’re running 300 plus nurse openings right now and we have 4,000 nurses across the health system, so putting that in proper perspective but as much as we’re putting into the organization as we hire every month, there’s folks that are leaving at a higher rate. It’s coming down now but every time we see a surge we see more people leaving,” said Staub.
Both Jackson and Memorial say they’ve brought in the support of traveling nurses or used similar agencies to meet the needs of the community during a COVID surge, which is currently on the decline.
Both major hospitals say an increase in education, training and recruiting from universities can be a potential solution to bring more candidates to the field of nursing in the future.
According to the latest postings on LinkedIn, as of June 2021, being a registered nurse is the 4th most in-demand job in the U.S.