New Research Projects Nursing Workforce Shortages, Crisis

Program at Touro University California Strives to Bridge Gap in Nursing, Build Health Care Resilience Across Region

April 19, 2023
Nurses pose for the camera

MARE ISLAND — Nursing programs such as those found at Touro University California are working to stave off a looming crisis that saw some 100,000 nurses leave the profession during the pandemic with another 800,000 projected to leave the field by 2027.

The combined total represents almost one-fifth of the nation's 4.5 million registered nurses, losses the National Council of State Boards of Nursing says threaten the national health care system at large if solutions are not enacted.

NCSBN unveiled its research, titled “Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Burnout & Stress Among U.S. Nurses,” on April 14 during a panel titled “Nursing at the Crossroads: A Call to Action” at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Research findings from NCSBN reveal for the first time how the nursing workforce was affected by the pandemic and how many left the workforce in this period and forecast how many nurses in the U.S. have an intent to leave the workforce. The research also examined the personal and professional characteristics of nurses experiencing heightened workplace burnout and stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study is considered to be the most comprehensive and only research in existence, uncovering what NCSBN describes as “the alarming data points which have far reaching implications for the health care system at large and for patient populations.”

While the report suggests that the factors for the nursing shortage have existed prior to the pandemic and are multifaceted, including stressful working conditions to include long hours and heavy patient loads, lack of wellness support, wages and insufficient support staff, COVID-19 has only highlighted these issues.

Touro University California offers accelerated, hybrid, post-licensure programs designed for working registered nurses. The programs focus on clinical leadership, addressing systemic issues and improving health care outcomes.

“It is not enough to continue to graduate nurses for the front lines; we aim to provide nurses with the foundation and background needed to continue to strive in these challenging health care settings as nurses and leaders,” said Dr. Prabjot (Jodie) Sandhu, Director of the School of Nursing at Touro University California.

Nurses who have an associate degree have the ability to earn a master of science in nursing in 18 months while those with a bachelor's degree in nursing may earn their master's degree in 12 months. Those with a master's degree in nursing may earn a family nurse practitioner certificate in 12 months, furthering their career to help fill the primary care shortage of health care providers, which Sandhu describes as another crucial gap in our health care system.

The leadership, community practice and diverse population focus of advanced nursing education at Touro University California is a real solution to provide nurses with the tools needed to work in a more complex health care dynamic as seen today, Sandu said.

Organizations that employ nurses often encourage higher education not only as a way to retain qualified nurses but also to enhance the level of care that is available to local communities.

Here is Solano County, NorthBay Health partners with Touro University California and Travis Credit Union to provide scholarships to NorthBay nurses enrolled in Touro's BSN to MSN program. Two NorthBay nurses were recently awarded $15,000 scholarships to help pay for the master's program.

The research presented April 14 was gathered as part of a biennial nursing workforce study conducted by NCSBN and the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers. Key findings as reported by NCSBN include:

  • Approximately 100,000 registered nurses (RNs) left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic in the past two years due to stress, burnout and retirements.
  • Another 610,388 RNs reported an “intent to leave” the workforce by 2027 due to stress, burnout and retirement.
  • 188,962 additional RNs younger than 40 years old reported similar intentions.
  • Altogether, about one-fifth of RNs nationally are projected to leave the health care workforce.
  • 62% of the sample reported an increase in their workload during the pandemic.
  • A quarter to half of nurses reported feeling emotionally drained (50.8%), used up (56.4%), fatigued (49.7%), burned out (45.1%) or at the end of the rope (29.4%) “a few times a week” or “every day.”
  • These issues were most pronounced with nurses with 10 or fewer years of experience, driving an overall 3.3% decline in the U.S. nursing workforce in the past two years.
  • Licensed practical/vocational nurses, who generally work in long-term care settings caring for the most vulnerable populations, have seen their ranks decline by 33,811 since the beginning of the pandemic. This trend continues.

Research also suggested that nurses’ workloads and what is described in the press release as “unprecedented levels of burnout” during the COVID-19 pandemic played key roles in accelerating these workforce trends and threatening the future of the U.S. nursing workforce, particularly for younger, less experienced RNs.

Coupled with large declines among nursing support staff, NCSBN calls for significant action to foster a more resilient and safe U.S. nursing workforce moving forward.

“The data is clear: The future of nursing and of the U.S. health care ecosystem is at an urgent crossroads,” Maryann Alexander, PhD, RN, FAAN, NCSBN Chief Officer of Nursing Regulation, said in the press release. “The pandemic has stressed nurses to leave the workforce and has expedited an intent to leave in the near future, which will become a greater crisis and threaten patient populations if solutions are not enacted immediately. There is an urgent opportunity today for health care systems, policymakers, regulators and academic leaders to coalesce and enact solutions that will spur positive systemic evolution to address these challenges and maximize patient protection in care into the future.”