An opaque view of nurse vacancy rates

Early data and anecdotal evidence suggests some states may be rebounding from the nurse shortage, though concrete data on the topic is sparse, and more time is needed to confirm the trend. 

So far, the clearest evidence comes from Florida. Nurse vacancy rates fell from 22 percent in 2022 to 13 percent this year, according to a Florida Hospital Association Survey of more than 200 hospitals. The nurse turnover rate also fell from 32 percent to 20 percent, and hospitals are reporting more nurses returning to their old jobs. 

Becker's reached out to every state hospital association nationwide to see whether this trend appeared elsewhere. Many associations were unable to share similar data because they do not track vacancy rates or because the association is not planning to survey its members until later this year.

The Utah Hospital Association pointed to anecdotal evidence of hospitals saying the shortages have eased but could not provide data to support this. 

"A lot of effort has been made to support healthcare workers as well as increase the pipeline in our state, but I don't know how that is translating into actual RN vacancy rate reductions in hospitals," a spokesperson for the association said. "We are certainly graduating more RNs in our state nursing programs."

Missouri hospitals reported their highest registered nurse vacancy rate on record in 2021 at 19.8 percent. This figure fell to 17.4 percent in 2022, according to data from the Missouri Hospital Association.

"It is too early to say we have a rebound, if you are looking at it as a trend," Dave Dillon, MHA's vice president of public and media relations, told Becker's. "We have made significant efforts, including with partners and [the] state government, but we won't know if we're experiencing a trend until next year's data is available. We are hopeful and continue to work on this as a significant operational threat."

The Iowa Hospital Association could not share vacancy rates, but preliminary data on turnover rates also showed a decline. Turnover rate for staff nurse positions fell from 19.3 percent in 2022 to 15.4 percent in 2023.   

The New Hampshire Hospital Association does track hospital nurse vacancy rates, though the data does not show any significant reduction, a spokesperson told Becker's. Hospitals reported a 19 percent vacancy rate in April 2022, compared to an 18.7 percent rate this April. 

There is not a uniform method or timeline for how or when each state's hospital association tracks data on the nursing workforce, though many said they anticipate more concrete trends for 2023 to be available later this year. In the few states that did see improving trends, factors such as a decline in contract rates, improved training for new nurses and nursing models that decrease administrative burden were cited as reasons why. 

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