Symptoms of an Untreated Shortage: 5 Short and Long-Term Effects of Nursing Shortages

Updated on June 23, 2021

As hospital executives attempt to bandage the open wound that is today’s nursing shortage, both healthcare professionals and patients feel the sting of declining patient care and high turnover. The pain becomes all the more excruciating when reimbursement cuts and a lack of employee incentives come into play. 

Sadly, the nursing shortage is not a new issue in the healthcare industry. The present number of active nurses in the United States is insufficient to satisfy their demand. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses’ employment is expected to expand by approximately 15% by 2026, substantially faster than other occupations. 

While the miracle work of nurses often falls under our radar, registered nurses have a hand in various life-saving tasks, including giving prescriptions, assisting with diagnostic tests, and interpreting the results. These responsibilities are frequently determined by the nurse’s location and the patients with whom she or he works. As nurses retire and the aging population multiplies, active nurses can expect more intensive workloads and more demanding job descriptions.

Resolving shortages post-diagnosis

So, what does the recovery process entail? Read on for a few ways hospital executives can resolve nurse shortages:

Recruit the top-talented nurses

Consider your fleet of talented and hardworking nurses to be an investment. While you may have to offer more generous salaries and benefits packages, initially, their loyalty and commitment to quality patient care is a priceless asset.

If recruiting top talent poses a challenge, turn to medical staffing agencies to provide nurses. An excellent option is Fusion Marketplace —a reliable and well-oriented staffing agency that can provide you with nurses to remedy shortages. 

Provide incentives for behaviors you want in nurses

Provide incentives to your nurses to encourage the behavior you want to see. Consider implementing a point system that rewards employees for picking up less-than-ideal shifts, working extra hours, or learning new skills. They could use their points to buy unique prizes or increase their pay grade over time.

By implementing an incentive program, you can staff the most unpopular shifts in a way that maintains nurse satisfaction. In turn, hospital executives will notice visibly improved employee retention rates. 

As part of this strategy, avoid rewarding harmful conduct. For example, nurses may feel compelled to come in on days when they are sick or unable to work in hopes of earning bonus points or a raise, which can jeopardize patient care and endanger those with compromised immune systems. 

Provide long-term professional training

Long-term professional training is a must if medical facilities want to keep top talent on staff. Remember, nurses will need to tack on new industry knowledge and abilities as they advance into managerial roles. By offering this training via online tutorials, in-person workshops, and other methods, executives can avoid stunting healthcare worker growth.  

While you might consider switching on the fire hose and forcing top talent to guzzle the tidbits of information they can retain, a slow-and-steady approach will yield better results. So, instead of cramming all of the training into the first months of employment, which might go to waste if a nurse leaves, spread it out to save money on more expensive training and increase the possibility of remembering. 

The medical director can be a vital component in the ongoing education of a facility’s licensed nurses. Enhancing the education and skills of these caregivers can directly increase quality and improve the nurses’ job satisfaction. Ultimately, this decrease of licensed nurse turnover through enhanced job satisfaction will positively impact facility costs and increases consistency and quality of care.

Incentivize referrals from current nurses

Nurses understand other nurses and are aware of the issues that matter to their fellow healthcare professionals. Offering monetary compensation or other incentives for recommendations can motivate current employees to tap into their network of fellow nursing professionals. 

Effects of nursing shortages

The nursing shortage has increasingly severe effects on the healthcare system around the country. Here are some of these effects:

Reduction in patient care and mortality rates 

Higher hospital-related mortality and extended patient stays are only a few examples of the declining quality of patient care wreaking havoc on hospitals today. 

While this dwindling patient satisfaction may appear to be a game of mystery diagnosis, the startling percentage of nurses that are actively working indicates that nursing shortages result in patient health complications. Overall, the nursing shortage has harmed the quality of patient care in hospitals and other settings, including ambulances and health centers for students. 

Most hospital nurses report serious difficulty finding enough time to improve patient care, manage relationships with other colleagues, and quickly detect complications with nursing shortages breathing down their neck. 

Reduction in long-term care quality

The scarcity may have an impact on the quality of long-term care. For example, an increase in employee turnover—spurred by nursing shortages–can lead to higher training and recruitment costs, increases in survey citations, and decreased family and patient satisfaction. 

All these unfavorable outcomes affect the quality of care offered in long-term care centers and place an unbearable burden on the people who oversee and operate long-term care facilities.

Increase in lawsuits because of understaffing

The shortage may cause legal issues as well. Many individuals consider any nursing facility that is understaffed to be inadequate. Note that nursing home staffing statistics are readily available to the general public and, as a result, to plaintiffs’ attorneys. Even in the absence of other systemic issues, residents’ families and lawyers may identify low staffing as a cause of wrongful deaths. In other recorded cases, large settlements have been reported alleging substandard care connected to injuries, bedsores, injuries, and even death.

Because lawsuits stemming from staffing complications are costly ventures, doing your part to remedy long-term nursing shortages can be a matter of life and death.  

Healthcare centers may employ unlicensed nurses

When a nursing facility is not staffed with certified nurses, legal difficulties may occur. Because expanding staffing levels is necessary to make systemic adjustments in many circumstances, some healthcare centers decide to hire unlicensed nurses out of desperation for staff. Despite their intentions, these gambles can put innocent patients in harm’s way.

Increase in medical errors

The nursing shortage has an impact on patient care as well as outcomes. The low nurse-to-patient ratios directly influence medical errors. A peak in a nurse’s workload, along with stress, jeopardizes a patient’s treatment and increases the likelihood of potentially fatal medical errors. These life-threatening blunders occur when the incorrect drug is prescribed at the wrong dosage or when nurses forget to give the patients life-saving medications. 

Before you go

While there isn’t a single solution for moving beyond the era of nursing shortages, it is evident that not trying will be disastrous for the business and the country as a whole. As a result, administrators and owners of long-term care facilities must collaborate with medical directors to address the widespread nurse shortage. 

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.