Nurse supply and demand. This is a fluctuating roller coaster, if you will, where sometimes the two balance out but oftentimes they don’t.

Industry experts have published extensive content that predicts a worsening nursing shortage, including this PDF poster of predicted nursing shortages by 2030 that assigns a letter grade to each state. Nurse leaders confirm this trend even now as they report significant challenges in finding registered nurses to fill open positions.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen challenges nurse managers are having filling nursing positions? As a travel nurse, are you seeing boatloads of opportunities due to the nursing shortage? Does it seem like the job pool is being flooded with new graduates and that there aren’t enough experienced RNs to staff hospitals and healthcare facilities?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your experiences are similar to those that were recently shared by chief nursing officers (CNOs) in California.

A Panel of CNOs Discuss Nurse Supply and Demand at Webinar

Earlier this summer, there was a webinar hosted by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), that hosted a group of nurse managers and was titled, Nursing Demand and Supply in California: Current State and Strategies for the Future. Joanne Spetz, Ph.D., professor for the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies had the following to say:

“We certainly have seen a lot of news over the past couple of years about the potential for nursing shortages, and concerns—particularly from hospitals [and] across [all] settings—about there being a nursing crisis or difficulty in recruiting staff.”

An interesting point was brought up at the discussion that despite widespread reporting on the nursing shortage, there are some nurse workforce forecasts that do not support reality. Spetz went on to say:

“This has been interesting to watch because, at the same time, national federal forecasts and other local state forecasts generally suggest that the labor market is producing adequate numbers of nurses. This produces a bit of a conflict about what’s going on and thus, we’ve been engaged in surveillance of data across a variety of different sources to try to understand what’s happening, specifically in California, but [also if] what we’re seeing here resonates across other states in the U.S.”

Spetz and the other panelists at the webinar shared a variety of insights and data points about RN supply and demand, which included the perceptions of the RN labor market from the viewpoints of California chief nursing officers.

Nurse Supply and Demand is More than Just Numbers

Why are projections sometimes getting the figures wrong? Because the nurse supply and demand issue involves more factors than just numbers. Multiple variables influence the balance, including:

  • geographic location;
  • desired candidate skill sets and experience; and
  • education requirements.

David Auerback, Ph.D., who is the director and researcher for cost trends at the Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies at Montana State University, said the following during the event:

“A consistent story that seems to be emerging is that, the overall numbers look roughly in balance, but there is an imbalance in what employers seem to be wanting and what they are finding in the workforce.”

You have a lot of very experienced baby boomer RNs who are leaving the workforce. Employers [want] to replace that experience but [have] a large pool of new graduates who don’t really have what they want, and sometimes, they’re either keeping those vacancies open or turning to traveling nurses, and you do have a disconnect in various parts of the market.”

Keep reading to discover some of Spetz’s insights she shared during the webcast about California CNOs’ viewpoints on the current state of the RN labor market.

Chief Nursing Officers Experience a Mounting Nursing Shortage

In the fall of 2010, UCSF began conducting a survey to gauge the perceptions of the RN labor market as experienced by California CNOs. For the 2018 survey, there were 118 different hospitals that submitted answers. CNOs were asked to rate their view of the RN labor market in their geographical region in California according to a scale from “high demand: difficult to fill positions” to “demand is much less than supply available.” According to Spetz:

“In 2010 when we began these surveys, there were more hospitals reporting a surplus of nurses than a shortage. But,by the time we get to about the past four years, we have the vast majority of hospitals reporting that they perceive a shortage of nurses in their region, and very few hospitals saying they perceived any surplus of nurses in their region.”

Location Influences Nurse Supply and Demand

Spetz clearly makes the point that location is a huge influence on nurse supply and demand:

What you can see in the data is some regional variation with the perception of the shortage being generally less in the San Francisco Bay area and somewhat more in Central California and the Southern Border Counties.”

It’s Hard to Find Experienced Registered Nurses

Nurse leaders are stressing one of the biggest challenges is lack of experienced RNs, which has become a mounting problem since 2014 and 2015.

“It’s less of an issue in the San Francisco Bay area and more of an issue in most of the other regions in California,” Spetz said.

New Graduate Nurses are Easier to Find

The 2018 survey found the same trend as the previous years’ reports, and that was that CNOs perceived a surplus of new graduate RNs in nearly every region in California. According to Spetz:

“This surplus is less of an issue in the Central California region where hospitals actually reported, on average, a balanced labor market. Then Sacramento and the Northern Counties and Southern Border Counties also indicated, perhaps, less of a surplus of new graduate RNs. But in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the Inland Empire, the CNOs, on average, are reporting a pretty notable surplus of newly graduated nurses.

How Urban and Rural Settings Differ

“There are some differences between rural and urban regions, with rural hospitals being more likely to report a shortage than the urban areas, and this has been pretty consistent over time,” Spetz said.

Travel Nurses are Used to Fill in the Gaps

The survey specifically asked CNOs about the employment of temporary and travel nurses. According to Spez:

“Statewide, more hospitals reported lower use of traveling nurses over the past year compared to the prior year, while the use of local temporary RNs appears to have been fairly stable. So, there’s a little bit less use of traveling nurses, which is important in thinking about the degree of shortage hospitals might be experiencing.”

Have you thought about becoming a travel nurse? If you want to put your skills to work to make top money and help fulfill the demand for experienced nurses, call us today at 208-378-1338.

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Written by Miranda Booher, RN

As a twelve-year Registered Nurse with a healthy background in travel nursing and healthcare marketing, Miranda brings an interesting combination of stellar copywriting skills and first-hand nursing experience to the table. Miranda understands the industry and has a impeccable ability to write about it. And speaking of travel - Miranda currently lives in Uruguay, though she maintains an active Registered Nurse license in the state of Ohio and stays current on the latest healthcare news through her writing. When she is not creating killer copy, or serving others through her work as a nurse, you can find her hanging out on the beach with her loyal husband, three crazy kids, and their beautiful German Shepherd-Husky dog.

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