Contributions to ER Nursing ShortageThe Depth of the Nursing Shortage in the ER

The Emergency Nurses Association reported that for one single 6 month time span – 9-2000 through 2/2001, about 2 percent of the overall nursing vacancies were filled during just 4 weeks. The problem was that during that time span, over half of Emergency Rooms required six months to fill their vacancies and nearly 10 percent of Emergency Rooms required more than 6 months to fill their vacancies. Today, more than 10 years later, there remains an overall vacancy rate in the Emergency Room of over 11 percent.

What is Causing the Shortage?

The nursing shortage isn’t news. It’s something we’ve been reading about and hearing about and measuring for more than 15 years. Recently the nursing shortage—particularly in the critical care environment has been compounded-becoming much worse for reasons that myriad hospitals and organizations are exploring. What they have determined is that there isn’t one specific reason for the shortage and that the shortage is much worse in some areas of nursing than others.

According to nursing leaders, the reasons for the continued shortage are many and diverse, but these issues are paramount:

Broader scope of work-Nursing was a primarily female profession. Today, women are able to move into far more diverse and often male dominated fields and many are doing so, not selecting nursing as a career path.

Nursing Does Not Enjoy a Great Reputation– In many cases, nursing doesn’t enjoy a reputation as a low impact and non physical job. It has a reputation of being very demanding, very stressful and of forcing high impact physical chores on the nurse, where other jobs may be less difficult.

Nursing Faculty Shortage-In a single year there were more than 15 K nursing students who were turned down for nursing education due to the lack of faculty to teach them. This in and of itself is a dramatic problem causing the nursing shortage.

Higher Demand for Nurses in Better Work Environments—With the massive changes in healthcare, there are many additional places for nursing staff to work. Some of these places are lower impact, less physical jobs and allow the nurse greater autonomy. These jobs may include community nursing, insurance company nursing, home health visiting nursing and other areas that are arguably less fast paced and allow for greater job satisfaction.

Job Dissatisfaction—many nurses today are finding that after a given time span, the higher physical requirements, the demanding roles they play and the many issues in the hospital and critical care that require them to assume roles that are traditionally not nursing roles mean that they are not always well satisfied with their jobs. Hospital nurses report the lowest level of job satisfaction of all nursing staff, coming in at about 50 percent.

These are some of the most prevalent issues that cause nurses to avoid or leave the emergency department, contributing to short staffing . Our next article will explore how we can change these factors and boost the morale of nurses in our emergency departments.

Mitch Robbins is an expert as it relates to Interim and Direct Hire Nursing Leadership Recruitment for hospitals and clinics, helping organizations build best in class clinical leadership teams in the USA.

Learn to how to STOP losing your best nurses, IMPROVE your patient outcomes and DECREASE your staffing costs with special guest LeAnn Thieman. Download the free webinar transcript with LeAnn, Hall of Fame Speaker, Nurse, and Co-Author of the book Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul. Download your free copy here.

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