The Irony of Undervaluing Your Most Valuable Resource: Nurses

nurses are a resource

“There is an ever-growing demand for nurses.” If you’re a nurse then you already know that but here are some things you may not have known.

Alarming Statistics and The Creation of Problems

By 2003, the healthcare community could already read the writing on the wall. People were living longer and they were using more healthcare services. Americans, 65 and older, numbered around 48 million according to a 2003 census. And statistics showed these same patients were living another 19 years, on average. But that paled in comparison to the numbers released just 10 years later; nearly 63 million people over 65. Don’t grab your calculator – that’s a 30.7% increase in just a decade. Even more sobering to the healthcare administrators was fact that, over the next two decades, the figure would climb another 21%.

Many of those same decision-makers were responsible for an even more alarming statistic. Nurses were quitting healthcare at an almost unprecedented rate. Since the 90’s, and up to 2005, over 500,000 nurses had left the field due to the ever-climbing, lop-sided nurse to patient ratios. They couldn’t continue to provide the same level of care that they had been able to deliver before because hospital managers had decided nurses were a legitimate place to make workforce cuts. So a shortage created by poor managerial practices was now perpetuated by the climate created by those same poor decisions. What seemed fiscally responsible at the time was, as it turned out, a horrible trend that was going to hurt much worse than budget concerns.

empty hospital room

So now, jump to present day. We are in the middle of a never-before-seen phenomenon where our patient census is growing and our healthcare-provider numbers are plummeting. In fact, in 2010, each state was forecasted to be short by about 275,000 nurses in the near future if things didn’t change. At that point, we needed to add over a million new nurses to the national workforce by 2016. Did we do it? According to one of the latest projections done by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Not even close. We are still expected to be short by around 260,000 nurses by 2025. That is twice as large as any shortage we’ve experienced since the 60’s.

The Outlook for The Future

Depressed yet? Don’t be. I have good news. Due to the increasing demand in nursing, (it’s listed as one of the top occupations for job growth through 2022), the future looks bright for nursing professionals. While an improving economy and an influx of more insured citizens is bringing more revenue to healthcare facilities, full-time nursing staff aren’t seeing that growth in their paychecks.

And even though hospitals and other medical institutions are lagging behind on salary increases, nurse staffing agencies are continuing to successfully demand the highest wages for their nursing talent. Despite the “decision makers” at healthcare facilities dragging their feet on valuing great nurses, the profession is still picking up momentum due to companies like Flex Nursing, who truly value the incredible nurses they recruit throughout the southwest United States and pay them accordingly. More and more nurses are moving from full-time positions with one facility to nurse agency work to find the flexibility and higher hourly wages that they both desire and, ultimately, deserve.

With an exponential rise in patient population, an increase in expected life-spans, and an obvious, widening gap in provider-patient ratios, it is time to get serious about working environments. Salaries have risen across nursing over the last several years, but money isn’t the only factor when it comes to a nurse’s job satisfaction. As these salaries have risen, the work-place itself has become more stressful. New protocols and policies are constantly being added and changed. New insurance laws and practices are shaping the industry, too. Along with all of that, you have new healthcare models entering the field as well as digital charting and documentation becoming the new standard. New technology, while a good thing in the long-run, comes with a whole new bag of stressors. Things are continually changing and the medical professionals are seemingly thought of less and less in the process of designing and executing these new changes.

“A successful nurse staffing company is always going to put the needs of their nursing talent first. We think we know why there is a shortage to begin with and, to us anyway, it seems like a rather obvious fix. If you put genuine effort into showing a nurse how much you value their service by doing things like paying them the highest wages and giving them the flexibility that really should be offered to nurses in the first place, then you are able to build a professional, mutually-beneficial relationship with them. By nature, good nurses want to help people. That’s why they’re nurses! So, as their employer, we should be their biggest advocate; especially when we watch them doing the same for each one of their patients – and that’s what Flex Nursing is built on. We want to take care of the people who dedicate their professional lives to taking care of others. It just seems like common sense to me.”

– Tanner Smith

Chief Operations Officer, Flex Nursing

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