Nursing Shortage Caused by an Aging Workforce

There has been a nursing shortage across America. Covid has heightened its impact on hospitals and the profession in general.

Dr. Diane Santa Maria is the Dean at UT Health’s Cizik School of Nursing, one of the top, most respected schools in the country, who says the shortage has been around for years, and will get worse. “The projected shortage for us here in Texas by 2030 is over 57,000, and those are pre-Covid projections,” she details. Her job is addressing that.

The driving problem she says is a greying workforce in which the average age is 51. That means half of all nurses in practice are over the age of 50, and that has a domino effect. “We have a nursing shortage, in part, because we have a faculty shortage, and all of this is related to an aging workforce.”

So they are getting creative in recruiting new students, but face limits based on teacher availability. It’s only compounding the difficulties created by the pandemic. “They are stressed. Their resources are taxed. Patients with Covid in this current surge are oftentimes sicker than your typical patient coming in; their needs are much higher.”

Pandemic burnout may create a rush of retirements that will put even more stress on an already overburdened system. Santa Maria says the other side of that coin is that she is seeing a new generation of nurses who have found inspiration in providing for the needs of sick people. Rather than dissuading a generation, Covid is encouraging more people to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

photo: Getty Images

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