The most critical workforce shortage in health care is nursing

New Graduate Nurses (NGN) and Re-entry nurses

Vacancies exist, but employers have been reluctant to hire new graduates. NGNs are licensed as registered nurses but lack experience in the ability to think critically and to make clinical decisions directly out of school.  According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, without the benefits of transitional programs to help the NGN develop these skills, 35%-60% of the NGNs leave their position within the first year of being employed as a nurse.

Successful transition programs, such as the NHA-HCWD Transition to Practice Skills Seminar, demonstrate favorable outcomes.  The collaborative efforts of NHA, the HCTA and participating employers standardize the process.  The lack of a standardized program has several implications which include:

  • High-turnover rates among first-year nurses
  • Significant job stress
  • Significant issues related to job stressors such as incorrect documentation, medication errors or near misses, delays in patient care delivery and violence among patients or toward nurses.

Re-Entry Nurses

Of our nation’s three million licensed registered nurses, 17% hold inactive licenses, amounting to nearly a half-million nurses. One fifth of inactive nurses believe that their skills are out-of-date. The state of Nevada mandates that a nurse out of practice for five or more years must be “refreshed” in order to become licensed to re-enter nursing.  If a nurse has been out of employment for more than a year, the employer may choose to provide additional training due to the time away from the bedside.

Allied Health Professionals

Allied health professionals include a group of professional health care providers who are not physicians, pharmacists or nurses.  They are credentialed through certification, registration and/or licensure.  Allied health professionals make up 60% of the health care workforce (Source: Association of Allied Health Schools, Definition of Allied Health Professionals, 2012-03-06; ASAHP.org).  They work in health care teams to make the health care system function more efficiently by providing a range of diagnostic, technical, therapeutic, and direct patient care supportive services that are critical to the other health care professionals they work with and the patients they serve.

According to a report by the Center of Healthcare Workforce Studies, the data suggest that a recovering economy, an aging population, and insurance coverage expansion resulting from the recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will produce a steady demand for health services and thus generate above-average growth in health care employment in Nevada over the next decade. Some of the occupational projections from 2010 through 2020 include the following:

  • More than 13% of the U.S. labor workforce is in the health sector or in a health occupation (19 million jobs out of 143 million jobs in the U.S. labor workforce).
  • The health care sector is projected to add more than 4.2 million jobs between 2010 and 2020 with 63% of those in ambulatory settings.
  • Health sector employment is projected to grow from more than 14 million jobs in 2010 to nearly 18.3 million jobs in 2020, an increase of 30% compared to only 13% growth for jobs in other employment sectors.
  • The total number of health care workers across all employment sectors will increase by more than 4.7 million between 2010 and 2020.  In addition, another 2.7 million health care workers will be added to replace individuals expected to leave their jobs (e.g., retirements, attrition from the profession, etc.) over the same period.
  • Between 2010 and 2020, more than 1.2 million new RNs will be needed nationwide, including nearly 500,000 to replace RNs leaving the profession.
  • The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports there will be more growth within the health care and social services assistance sector than in any other sector within this decade.
  • While total employment in all Nevada industries declined by 14.4 percent since 2007, health care industry employment grew by a combined 10.0 percent.