Burnout | Original Content

Nursing Shortage: Why Nurses Are Leaving & What We Can Do About It

  • The global nursing shortage has impacted us all. Our nurses are overworked, exhausted and in desperate need of change.
  • Nursing schools have not been able to keep up with the demand for new nurses, and it is preventing recent graduates from landing jobs in the field.
  • Nursing CE Central provides an inside scoop on ways that clinic administrators can improve their nurses’ workplace satisfaction.
Morgan Curry, RN/BSN

Morgan Curry, BSN / RN

Intensive Care, Outpatient Surgery, Aesthetics, Education, and Nursing Leadership

April 16, 2021
Simmons University


As nurses working through this pandemic, especially in the hospital setting, we are definitely feeling the impacts of the nursing shortage. How many of you have been personally affected by short staffing?  

I know I have.  

The past year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems across the world have been overwhelmed and strained by the influx of patients, lack of resources, and extreme working conditions.  

Setting aside the pandemic, another major factor that has been contributing to the nursing shortage is the aging nursing population. An article from the American Nurses Association states that, the average age of employed RNs over the past decade has increased by nearly two years, from 42.7 years in 2000 to 44.6 years in 2010.   

In addition to that, there is a limited supply of new nurses in general. Nursing schools are not able to keep up with the demand, which significantly contributes to the overall nursing shortage 

How do we, as nurses and nursing managers, rally together to fix the problem and eliminate burnout to retain our nurses and alleviate the nursing shortage? 

The Nursing Shortage is Growing  

The current U.S. nursing shortage is an issue that healthcare administrators have warned about for decades. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the issue stems from a projected shortage of RNs, As Baby Boomers age, the need for health care grows. Compounding the problem is the fact that nursing schools across the country are struggling to expand capacity.  

Nursing schools have limited budgets and staff, which results in the bottleneck effect from a lack of graduating student nurses. There are only so many new nurses entering the workforce each year. This is not enough to cover the deficit created by those leaving the profession due to the lack of job satisfaction, burnout, and retirement. 

In a recently published study by The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) regarding the nursing shortage crisis, more registered nurse jobs will be available through 2022 than any other profession in the United States. Consequently, nurses often work long hours under stressful conditions, resulting in fatigue, injury, and job dissatisfaction.  

With increased pressure, fatigue, and severity of patient illness, nurses within these environments are prone to making errorsleaving patients to suffer the consequences.

While the need for nurses continues to grow, AACN projects that the nursing shortage will continue long after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. This is due to nursing faculty shortages, lack of adequate funding, and insufficient classroom space at many baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in the U.S.  

So, what can we do about it? How do we, as nurses and nursing managers, rally together to fix the problem and eliminate burnout to retain our nurses and alleviate the nursing shortage? nursing shortage, poses a significant impact on the healthcare industry


How to Retain Your Nurses  

As we have seen through the pandemic, employers and hospital institutions are incorporating financial incentives into their hiring tactics to lessen the nursing shortage. This includes sign-on bonuses, retention pay, and crisis pay, as well as offering financial rewards to their nurses for referring others to join the field 

This is only a short-term solution at best, a Band-Aid on an ever-growing problem.  

Administrators should begin by assessing why their nurses are leaving. Exit interviews, turnover rate statistics, infection control reports, and patient satisfaction data are all helpful tools to determine the reasons why so many are leaving the profession 

Results from exit interviews should give answers to the following questions: 

  • Are you leaving because you felt unsupported? 
  • Is there a clash in morals or values creating your motive to leave? 
  • ‘Is there a preceptorship program in place to orient and train your nurses to work safely and efficiently, to ensure workplace satisfaction and patient safety?

We must determine at the root cause and establish what we can do to fix that before blaming external factors such as the aging population and/or shortage of new nurses. 

When nurses feel appreciated, supported, and encouraged, they are more likely to work harder, provide better patient care, and have fewer instances of burnout.

Workplace Satisfaction

Workplace satisfaction is huge!

I have left a job that I loved because the work culture was extremely toxic. And even today, I still love the specialty. I loved my patients and I miss them dearly, but it was the lack of upper management and poor conflict resolution that made me leave. 

Im sure that I am not the only one in this situation.  

If you’re a nursing manager or administrator, you must evaluate your leadership team, your staff, and the processes you have in place to ensure that the work environment is a pleasant, positive, and safe place for your nurses. If you are complacent with unresolved conflict or managerial issues within your practice, it will increase your turnover rate and further contribute to the nursing shortage. nursing shortage, work with administrators to create a healthier environment

When nurses feel appreciated, supported, and encouraged, they are more likely to work harder, provide better patient care, and have fewer instances of burnout. This leads to increased job satisfaction and increased nurse retention.  

Here’s What You Can Do:  

  • Create a culture that supports, informs, and empowers its nursing staff to provide the best care possible.
  • Increase and encourage communication strategies. This is a core component of nursing satisfaction – nurses want to feel heard. They want to feel like the administration understands what they do and why they do it.
  • Show appreciation for your nurses. Everybody needs to feel appreciated. Go the extra mile to ensure your employees feel appreciated for their work. This can be meals, gifts, words of encouragement, recognition, or any other form of appreciation. Make it happen! 
  • Be transparent. Do not try to hide what is going on. If there is an issue, confront it. If there is a mistake, correct it, educate about it, move forward, and make sure it doesn’t happen again. An administration that is clear about what is happening within the facility, such as finances and goals, creates a team that nurses want to be a part of. Provide them with this information, when appropriate, and make them feel like they are a part of something great! 

Take the time to investigate any shortcomings at your facility and decide what you can do as a manager, leader, or administrator to strengthen your team. Assess any problems, outline processes for improvement, and create changes to keep your amazing nurses. In doing so, you‘ll make your nurses happier, while also helping to improve the nursing shortage that we’re facing

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