Americas Managerial Nursing Shortage

By: Shay Rosen

The fact that a nursing shortage exists is not lost on the medical establishment, nor the public in general. Less than expected enrollment and graduate rates for nationwide nursing programs combined with an aging baby boomer population have contributed to what many deem a healthcare crisis. What's often overlooked is that aside from nursing as a profession, senior nurse administrators are retiring en masse.

This, above any and all concerns related to manpower alone, is one of the biggest problems facing healthcare establishments. Managing nurses offer so much more than simple administrative support. They are the eyes, ears and leadership of nursing staffs in every institution. Their guidance and leadership is necessary to ensure that those entering the field are well trained, well supervised and performing at a level commensurate with what's expected in a modern healthcare setting. Expertise and experience of this nature simply cannot be replaced so easily.

A recent survey on the aging workforce within the health care industry by the Bernard Hodes Group revealed that 55% of nurses surveyed intend to retire between 2011 and 2020. Of the 55% intending to retire, the vast majority were senior nurse managers and administrators.

It not only follows that if some of the best and brightest talent in the nursing field work in a supervisory capacity (as is the case with most fields in most industries), the large scale departure of these professionals could have a detrimental impact on the quality of nursing care over the next several decades. This is a scenario that cannot be fixed through increased enrollment, better graduation rates or media attention to the overall nursing shortage the U.S. health care system is experiencing now.

Education can adequately prepare qualified nurses for top tier positions while private and federally funded programs can make educational opportunities more palatable for those eligible, yet without experience, nursing as a field is bound to suffer. As with almost any field, leadership born out of experience is something that has no substitute.

Many health care facilities are doing all they can to keep senior level nurses on board past their preferred retirement dates, including offering salaried financial incentives, greater 401K contributions and offering part time scheduling. Whether these stop-gap measures will help has yet to be seen.


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