The nursing shortage is "one of the greatest operating challenges for health care providers nationwide," according to a report by New York-based Fitch Ratings.
The May 13 report lays out the problems:
- U.S. hospitals reported 126,000 vacant nursing positions in 2001, with the average hospital showing a 13% vacancy rate. All healthcare providers report a 6% vacancy rate, which is expected to balloon to 29% by 2020.
- Turnover rates for nurses in hospitals are hovering at around 15%.
- Nursing shortages are reported in 30 states, with 44 states expected to have shortages by 2020.
- Nurse shortages are a factor in 24% of 1,609 cases involving death or injury in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
- Expand responsibilities for lesser-trained caregivers, such as licensed practical nurses.
- Increase wages, although this may be too costly.
- Provide signing bonuses, although they may alienate existing staff.
- Improve retention through flexible scheduling, tuition reimbursement, on-site training, high school vocational programs and on-site day care.