- Costs and personnel issues associated with the current nursing shortage in the U.S. will erode nonprofit hospital margins for at least three to four years to come, a new report from Moody’s Investors Service warns.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the nursing shortage will last until 2025, driven by increased demand and insufficient supply.
- To attract and retain talent, some hospitals are offering signing bonuses, higher compensation or fringe benefits — adding to already growing expenses.
Hospitals are also creating internal nursing pools to avoid contract labor, which can be costly. But these come with their own costs, since the hospital will need to manage the pools. Retention and productivity could also suffer if nurses are not adequately trained across service lines, according to Moody’s.
“Labor is the largest hospital expense and is increasing faster than total expense growth while outpacing revenue growth,” Moody’s analyst Safat Hannan said in a statement. “The lack of qualified nurses will compound these expense pressures and negatively affect hospital margins.”
The nursing shortage will be felt hardest in the southern and western U.S. — states like Florida, Georgia, Texas and California — where supply is too low to handle a growing and aging population. Rural hospitals will fare worse than large urban hospitals, which can draw from nearby teaching hospitals and offer more competitive wages, Moody’s says.
Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system, but the ongoing shortage is forcing those who remain in the workforce to take on more responsibilities and hours.
In a 2017 survey by traveling nurse company RNnetwork, nearly half of nurses reported they were thinking about leaving the profession. The most frequently cited reason was feeling overworked, but nurses also complained of being verbally harassed or bullied by other nurses and having to work other jobs to supplement their income.
More than six in 10 said the national nursing shortage has affected their workload.
To address the problem, some hospitals are appointing chief wellness officers to help relieve stress and improve work-life balance. For example, California Permanente Medical Group now offers flexible and alternate work schedules, peer-to-peer support and specified teams to help physicians prioritize administrative tasks so that others can handle the clerical work.