2 solutions to revitalize the 'emotionally exhausted' nursing workforce

After months and years of healthcare leaders toiling to recruit and retain nurses, and not exceed budget limits, some are pushing for laws and tweaks to nursing curriculums to offset the workforce's issues. 

Multiple states have forwarded staff ratio bills, and in late March, lawmakers reintroduced a federal aim at hospital staffing ratio legislation. Critics say staffing ratios, or setting a legal limit to how many patients a nurse can attend to, does not work during a nurse shortage and can jeopardize patient care because of the lack of flexibility. 

As 800,000 nurses plan to depart their positions by 2027, though, it seems something needs to budge. And after a difficult financial year, not all hospitals and health systems might be able to afford a $100,000 registered nurse incentive program to recruit and retain staff. 

In Michigan, 4 in 10 nurses said they expect to leave soon, 3 in 10 said they plan to reduce their clinical hours, and nearly 2 in 10 said they wanted to pursue travel nursing, according to a study conducted in March 2022. Eighty-four percent of the 9,150 state-licensed nurses part of the study met the threshold for being "emotionally exhausted," the research found. 

Besides ratio laws wending through the legislation process, the other leading proposed solution for the already stretched workforce is education changes, according to an April 16 report from Michigan Advance

In Colorado, one hour of simulation time — in which students work in labs and other facilities simulating nursing care — equals two hours of traditional clinical time. If this allowance was picked up by the Michigan Board of Nursing, nursing programs could accept more students without the burden of having to find more clinical sites for training, and thus train more for the profession, according to Michigan State University College of Nursing Dean Leigh Small, PhD, RN. 

A push to expand training to rural areas can also reduce nursing shortages in underserved communities. "If you can train people who come from those communities or train them in those communities, they fall in love with those places and want to stay there," Norman Beauchamp Jr., MD, executive vice president for health sciences at the university, told the outlet. 

Younger nurses made up nearly a fourth of the hundreds of thousands of nurses planning to leave by 2027, Maryann Alexander, PhD, RN, chief officer of nursing regulation at National Council of State Boards of Nursing, told Becker's. This is a departure from what past research of the workforce has shown, and Dr. Alexander said the "healthcare ecosystem is at an urgent crossroads."

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