As a nurse, I have a bird’s eye view of the detrimental nursing shortage—and there are no signs of it improving. The United States is projected to experience an exodus of approximately one million nurses by 2030, leaving a profound mark on patient care.
Nurses seem like a “given” role in the healthcare system, but there’s only so much an overworked professional can take. With over 40% of US nurses reporting an unmanageable workload, according to the American Nurses Association, it’s clear there isn’t just a nursing shortage. There’s a deficit in support, resources, and systems to sustain us in our roles.
These systemic issues are problematic beyond America’s fleet of nurses. Here’s how American healthcare will continue to suffer if we don’t get a handle on the nursing shortage.
1. Quality of Care
Throughout my career, I’ve relied on the camaraderie of fellow nurses to deliver the best quality of care to our patients. While I’m confident in my skillset, the increased volume of patients requires communication in our unit to ensure each patient is getting what they need. With a nursing shortage, the staff faces extended hours and a heavier workload, leaving them with burnout and fatigue. Even worse, according to a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, patients cared for by a lower nurse-to-patient ratio have a higher risk of developing complications and dying.
2. Patient Satisfaction
Hand in hand with overworked nurses is dissatisfied patients. Our role requires us to be accessible to our patients and meet their needs at a minimum. To deliver the caliber of care we’re passionate about as nurses, we need to be accessible to our patients. In a survey by Press Ganey Associates, patients who reported high levels of nurse staffing also reported higher levels of satisfaction with their hospital experience, which is the ultimate goal for any provider.
3. Healthcare Costs
Nurses and patients are the first to experience the fallout from a nursing shortage, but the healthcare system at large takes a hit as well. According to the National Academy of Medicine, the nursing shortage costs the US healthcare system approximately $17 billion annually. To fill in the gaps where my colleagues once were, hospitals must invest in sourcing and compensating temporary staff. This expense puts a bandaid on a hemorrhaging healthcare system, costing patients and their families astronomical hospital bills in the long run.
These issues are already underway, and the projected costs associated with them are impacting the nursing profession in irreparable ways. While recruiting and retaining more nurses should be a long-term goal, the addition of human capital won’t be the only solution.
Nurses need support now. The staffing shortage is robbing patients of the care they deserve and nurses of the profession they love. Now is the time to take advantage of evolving healthcare technology. With the use of AI and advancing healthcare technology, we could tap into more effective communication systems and keep closer tabs on our patients.
With real-time data, visibility, and communication using tools like the AUGi, we can increase the quality of care we provide to our patients while we resolve the fundamental issues behind the nursing shortage. Virtual patient check-ins, AI monitoring, and mobile care team insights are not the future—they’re happening now—and we need more facilities to access these tools to support nurses, patients, and the future of our ailing healthcare system.