6 Trends in Nurse Staffing for 2019

Nurse staffing continues to be a challenge for hospitals around the US as the aging population and influx in patients contribute to the national nursing shortage. Hospitals are feeling financial pain caused by the shortage, according to a report by Moody’s Investor Services, with labor costs being more than half of most hospitals’ operating revenue. Hospital executives are seeking more innovative and cost-effective ways to staff their facilities.

Avant Healthcare Professionals recently published its 2019 Trends in Nurse Staffing Study examining the state of nurse staffing in 2019 and what staffing strategies healthcare leaders are considering. The survey was sent to a list of hospital executives with the title CEO, CNO and HR executive. A total of 171 responses were received from facilities across the U.S. from a variety of settings including critical access hospitals, state facilities and large systems.

Here are the six main takeaways to provide insight into the state of nurse staffing in 2019.

Medical-surgical nurses are the highest in demand. Medical-surgical has the highest demand at around 68% of respondents indicating a need for them. Med-surg nursing is the largest nurse specialty in the country and requires high-level critical-thinking skills, superior clinical skills, strong management skills and the ability to work under pressure. These positions will usually be in high demand due to the nature of the work.

In addition to med-surg, there is also a high demand for emergency room, intensive care unit and operating room nurses. Half of the respondents indicated a need for other nurse specialties including behavioral health, labor and delivery, and long-term care.

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More facilities are factoring in nurse retirements. It is estimated that 70,000 nurses are retiring annually, with approximately 50% of the nurse workforce aged 50 and over2. Health leaders understand that these retirements can cause challenges in patient satisfaction and a significant experience gap. According to the survey, 61% of respondents said that they factored in the amount of retirement for their facility. This is an increase of 4% compared to the data from 2018.

Healthcare executives are more confident in utilizing staffing agencies. In 2019, 34% of hospitals are planning on using staffing agencies to outsource their recruitment efforts, which is 8% higher than the reported 26% last year. To fill more experienced nurse roles, hospitals are looking into international nurses as a solution. According to Shari Dingle Costantini, founder and CEO of Avant Healthcare Professionals, “I have seen a dramatic increase in demand for our [international] nurses. Hospitals in all regions are experiencing the stress of caring for a high volume of patients with limited staff resources.”

More hospitals are using travel nurses. Travelers work as contractors for a few weeks at a time to help fill staffing needs at hospitals. According to 2019 Trends in Nurse Staffing Study, about 13% of respondents said they are using more than 25 travel nurses. While this is an increase from last year, hospital executives have indicated they are looking to move away from travel nurses, seeking healthcare professionals looking for temp to perm. Respondents who do use travel nurses said they spend more than $70 per house on a travel nurse. A CNO from Corning, Kansas said, “We are a CAH and travel nurses are very expensive and impact our budget dramatically.”

New graduates remain a top source for recruitment efforts. The survey concluded that almost 80% of hospitals are planning to use new grads to fill openings. While the number of new grads entering the field has increased, a study from American Nurse Today found that approximately 30% of graduate nurses are leaving their practice setting within the first year, with almost as much as 57% in the second year. This makes it difficult for hospitals to retain skilled nurses on staff. In addition to hiring new grads, the survey indicated that facilities are utilizing internal recruitment efforts, external advertising, agency partnerships and sign-on bonuses to attract nurses.

The demand for nurses is scattered geographically. The nursing shortage is not hitting each region the same, with the southeast and south-central part of the U.S. impacted most by the shortage. While urban areas are feeling the effects of the shortage, rural communities are being hit the hardest since they have difficulty recruiting new grads to their facility. Hospital leaders will need to consider a multi-faceted approach to staffing when looking to fill job openings.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RN is listed among the top occupations in terms of job growth. As the need for healthcare in the U.S. increases, proper nurse staffing is essential to providing quality patient care. Hospitals are seeking cost-effective strategies to attract and retain top talent by exploring innovative solutions to staff during a national nursing shortage. The information provided by this study is intended to provide insight into trends in nurse staffing.

Brian Hudson

Brian Hudson
Brian Hudson is an experienced healthcare staffing executive with more than 20 years of experience in strategic leadership and healthcare staffing, including international nurse staffing. He can be reached at bhudson (at) avanthealthcare (dot) com.

Brian Hudson

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