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The Nursing Shortage - it’s more critical than you think

Posted By Administration, Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Nursing Shortage - it’s more critical than you think

Written by: Lori McKnight


Emergency alert: One-third of the country’s registered nurses are reaching retirement age in the next few years.


Nurses comprise over half of a hospital’s workforce, provide the majority of daily patient care and are the single biggest factor influencing how patients rate a hospital.


And nearly 700,000 of them are approaching retirement age by 2024.

This is raising the blood pressure of healthcare HR professionals responsible for attracting and retaining enough nurses to meet the demands of an aging patient population. With 55% of nurses over the age of 50, there’s lots to worry about.


Here are just a few stats keeping healthcare providers up at night:

  • US population growth rate for people aged 65+ is 42%+ compared to a 12% growth rate for people under 65 years of age
  • There are 7 caregivers per 1 patient today; by 2050 the ratio will be 3-1
  • 2/3 of seniors will need significant to moderate help with their day to day activities
  • The number of RNs is projected to grow by 16% over the next five years but school enrollment is only increasing by 3.6%  


So how are hospitals preparing to meet this uptick in demand for nurses amidst an insufficient supply?

Unlike other industries, hospitals can’t dig into deep pockets to attract and incentivize - so HR needs to get creative in how it cares for its patients AND people.



Here are 3 ways to get through the current and looming skills gap.


1.    Hold onto those Baby Boomers

o   Highlight benefits attractive to nurses close to retirement

o   Offer some control over their schedule and more flextime

o   Recognize their expertise and contributions publicly

o   Identify those with “deep smarts” and encourage job shadowing, mentoring and transfer knowledge. This gives a sense of pride and purpose that will aid in retention



2.    Recognize Generational Differences

Technology has created an era of personalization never before experienced. The one-size-fits all motto of standardized offerings doesn’t necessarily resonate when managing a multigenerational workforce. Here are some things to consider.


Gen Xers are looking for:

  • A competitive salary and benefits - 55% of GenXers say they are behind on their retirement savings.
  • Training -  roughly two in three Gen Xers say their employers don’t provide people, skills and technology training.
  • Respect - this generation feels overlooked and is the most under-engaged. Public recognition and respect for their experience will improve feeling  valued.


Millennials want to work for managers and peers who:


  • Care about what’s going on in their life. This work-life integration is critical to engaging and retaining.
  • Recognize their efforts - social media has created a HUGE need for recognition with this demographic. They are used to regular feedback on their activities and expect it. It fuels them.
  • Provide linear and non-linear career paths.


Gen Zers are more conservative than you might think. They value:

  • Job stability and a competitive salary plus loan repayment perks.
  • Being at the forefront of evolving technologies so offering skills training will attract and motivate this generation.
  • Technology – even more so than millennials, the next generation entering the workforce will demand tech tools to be more efficient and productive



3.    Refresh your Onboarding Programs

Onboarding is often overlooked in a fast-paced hospital environment.

  • Encourage supervisors/managers to check-in with new hires at the one week, 30 day, 90 day and 6 month mark to gauge how new hires are fitting in. Quick Pulse Checks can really help.
  • Foster social connections with regular team-building events and mobile communication tools so teams can stay connected on the go. There’s a 50% boost in engagement when employees have friends and feel supported at work.


Recognition can be done on a shoestring budget

There’s a perception that recognizing and rewarding employees is expensive. It doesn’t have to be. There are many value-added, low cost ways to revitalize and amplify recognition programs to include ALL employees.


For more ways to recognize and retain healthcare professionals on a limited budget check out this webcast for a SHRM credit and flip through this healthcare recognition ebook.


"All data and information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or HR advice (which should be obtained through formal retention of a lawyer or HR professional, respectively).  Nothing contained in this blog reflects the opinions of GOSHRM or any of its directors or members. GOSHRM makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, current-ness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis."




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