Sharon and Kenneth Scott of SilverSage Management Services.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, dramatic transformations in health care were witnessed. Among those transitions was the Great Resignation, which saw a large portion of the nursing population quit, retire, or change jobs altogether.
Nursing numbers were already beginning to trend down before the onslaught of COVID-19 for a few reasons but really began diminishing throughout the pandemic. In September 2021, the American Nurses Association called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to take “robust and immediate action” to address the shortage, including declaring it a national crisis.
SilverSage Management Services received multiple calls throughout the pandemic where colleagues in the healthcare industry stated they knew we placed doctors but wondered if we placed nurses as well. So many facilities were short on nursing staff. Unfortunately, our answer was no at that time.
But when another friend called and asked for our help in addressing the nursing shortage nationwide, we began researching the problem to see if there were ways we might be able to assist. In the process, we’ve found a viable solution with our brand-new nurse recruiting program.
Let’s take a look at some of the main contributing factors to the nationwide shortage and discuss how SilverSage’s nurse recruiting program can help.
Reasons Contributing to Nursing Shortage
The current nursing shortage is not like previous shortages. As I mentioned earlier, the seeds for shortage were planted before the pandemic. A nurse working at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee—one of the most respected hospitals in the nation—accidentally provided the wrong medication to a patient, resulting in that patient’s death in 2017. The nurse was eventually charged and convicted of criminally negligent homicide and impaired adult abuse.
The nurse faced eight years in prison but was eventually sentenced to three years probation.
The case had a chilling effect on the nursing industry across the country. Nurses had previously lost their licenses for negligence but criminal prosecution for an unintentional mistake was something completely different. One of the first questions nurses are now asking hospital and nursing home administrators is, “If I make a mistake, how are you going to protect me?” And, of course, those administrators can only say, “If you’re charged criminally, there’s nothing we can do.” So, nurses have to think long and hard about whether taking such a demanding job in frequently stressful situations is worth taking that risk. Many are deciding that it’s not.
In addition to COVID-19, NurseJournal reports that there are four other main factors contributing to the continued shortage. They include the following:
- An increase in demand for care of the aging population
- Many senior nurses approaching retirement age
- A high nurse turnover rate
- A lack of educators and faculty in the nursing field
The nursing shortage is already affecting hospitals’ ability to provide care. The lack of nurses to staff nursing homes means there is a hard stop for hospitals when it comes to discharging patients needing extra care.
With new federal staffing mandates looming around the corner, nursing homes are even more worried about their ability to stay afloat and fill their beds—not because of any shortage of patients but because of the paucity of nurses. If, as expected, new regulations limit the number of patients one nurse is allowed to care for while the industry is facing a nursing shortage to begin with, it will lead to further problems.
I’m not implying that the government would be wrong to impose more stringent staffing requirements as it would no doubt result in better overall quality of care—which, of course, is the desired goal. However, the net result of mandating those changes in the middle of a nursing shortage will mathematically lead to fewer beds available for patients who need them.
On top of that, all available evidence suggests that this labor shortage is only going to worsen over the next several years. Of the eight industries examined in a recent BambooHR analysis, for example, health care features workers who are the unhappiest. Since 2020, employee happiness has seen a 40% rate of decline, with an even more rapid downward trend in 2023.
Failure to address and/or alleviate the low morale in the industry, the report says, could lead to an enormous shift in available personnel in the years ahead.
Excessive Reliance on Agency Staffing
The main solution that both hospitals and nursing homes have relied on to help fill the labor gaps thus far is agency staffing. Although agency staffing provides qualified nurses to fill specific, immediate holes, consistency and cost make it difficult, not only to provide the level of care needed but also to balance a facility’s budget in the long run. In fact, although agency staffing provides a good short-term solution, agency charges are not sustainable long-term due to their exorbitant rates.
The biggest expense that nursing homes and hospitals have is employee cost, including their wages, benefits, and everything that goes along with keeping someone employed. But if a facility can’t hire enough nurses to meet current demands, agency staffing is usually the first stop-gap action. In my experience, agencies typically charge double the cost of a regular full-time employee. Relying on the agency solution long-term will cause payroll costs to skyrocket. If this trend continues, we’re going to see more nursing homes and hospitals shut down.
Like the gas station owner who turns around and passes on the cost of any gas tax hikes to the consumer at the pump, who do you think is going to end up paying the higher cost of health care when hospitals and nursing homes need to continuously hire agency nurses to cover any government-mandated staffing requirements? We all know the answer to that.
The SilverSage Win-Win Solution
Recognizing the need that both nursing homes and hospitals are currently facing, SilverSage Management Services has developed a team of professionals ready to help. We are now able to provide foreign nurses seeking employment and green card status in the U.S. to help to fill the void.
SilverSage is not an agency or attempting to model after one, but we are building a recruiting and support service that provides qualified nurses who have passed the National Council Licensure Examination-RN (NCLEX-RN) for direct hire by a nursing home or hospital. We are helping nurses from other countries who are actively looking for a better life. They’re looking to live in a safer environment, for better pay and with better working conditions than they currently face.
Our program nurses will be hired by individual hospitals and nursing homes at rates they would normally pay. Thus, we will help fill the staffing void at a cost that fits the budgets of nursing homes and hospitals while providing all the needed paperwork and support that the federal government requires. To this end, the nursing home or hospital is provided with a new regular employee without the added hassles that require you to have extra staff to meet immigration requirements. It’s a win-win solution for all involved.
Our goal is to help each facility meet its obligation to provide efficient, high-quality care while reducing the margin of error, improving continuity of care, and providing employees that will be loyal to the culture of each facility—all within a sustainable budget.
We are excited about our nurse recruitment program and look forward to working with individual facilities to achieve better health care for their community. Please contact SilverSage Management Services if we can be of service.
Dr. Kenneth L. Scott Jr., DO, CMD, is a proud father, husband, and experienced medical professional with over 30 years of experience. From serving in management as a certified medical director to belonging to numerous medical societies, he leads with a vision to change medicine for the better.
Sharon L. Scott, Chief Operating Officer for SilverSage Management Services, is a cardiac nurse of over 25 years. As a young expectant mother and main breadwinner in the family working full-time as a nurse, Sharon faced the fear of being left behind as her husband was relocated to the U.S. to pursue his education. Her journey to the U.S., like many, consisted of paperwork, tests, ever-changing deadlines, and most of all the fear of having her family permanently divided. Having gone through this process, she is honored to partner with international experts in assisting nurses and facilities to help solve the growing nurse shortage issue in the U.S. through SilverSage’s nurse recruitment program.