Seeing a new solution to the nursing shortage

By Tammy Purcell, MSN, RNC-OB

Seeing a new solution to the nursing shortage

Hospitals are under mounting pressure to reduce staff costs and turnover while simultaneously increasing their operating efficiency. It’s a tough challenge—and one that looks almost insurmountable to solve in light of these two statistics, indicative of today’s nursing shortage:

is the hospital turnover rate for RNs in 20181

203,700 new nurses
are needed each year through 2026 to fill newly created positions and to replace retiring nurses2

So, what’s behind this turnover?

Burnout is clearly a factor. Nurses work physically demanding shifts and are constantly presented with critical decisions about patient care.

If these nurses don’t feel supported, they can be tempted by positions in other fields that will let them leverage their considerable experience, such as sales or research.

School vs. the real world

New graduate nurses face a different set of challenges as they struggle to apply academic knowledge to the clinical setting.

There’s no substitute for experience, so understandably new nurses need time and education to ramp up their clinical skills—no amount of classroom prep or cramming for their boards can really prepare them for the stress of real-world situations. This also hold true for mastering ethics, communication, and the other professional skills vital to the profession.

The field can be overwhelming for new nurses, and budgetary cuts to orientation and education programs are exacerbating the problem and leaving new nurses feeling like they have to sink or swim without the benefit of sufficient personal or professional support.

Many organizations look at the nursing shortage and see a clear-cut solution: doubling down on recruiting and hiring.

This makes sense as they believe that a strong pipeline of potential new hires is the best way to mitigate the risks associated with nursing turnover.

But while recruiting and hiring are important, it’s improvements to orientation and continuing education that will combat high turnover rates and make nurses feel supported, engaged, and ready to deliver the highest level of care.

New nurses need creative, engaging orientation and onboarding programs that zero in on exactly what they need to know—not three hours of PowerPoint slides that cover what they’ve already learned in school.

When these programs are standardized and consistent, nurse educators can also spend more time with new hires, instead of logging hours developing and maintaining homegrown educational materials. The face time with nursing professional development practitioners is important, and it also fosters a sense of connection and care, making nurses feel engaged, valued, and ready to pursue the hospital’s mission.

What about experienced nurses?

These nurses have seen it all and want to feel like they work for a hospital that hears their voices and shares their commitment to providing excellent care and high-quality patient experiences.

In their day-to-day work, experienced nurses know they need standardized, evidence-based tools to make an impact. And they need to be supported by an engaging, continuing education system. If they’re struggling with siloed tools and a one-size-fits-all learning program, they may opt out for more fulfilling jobs in another field.

To combat burnout and keep them engaged, hospitals need to foster practice improvement and professional growth with integrated, evidence-based education tools and personalized learning paths.

Empowering nurses with confidence and competence are critical to combatting today’s nursing shortage.

Learn how you can empower your nurses with the tools and information they need to feel engaged and confident in their practice, no matter where they are in the nursing journey.

And be sure to read our blog, Finding a new path toward patient-centered care to see how you can unify care across the continuum of care.

Discover Orientation & Retention

Elsevier Clinical Nursing strives to help organizations support all stages of their nurse’s journey with immersive, personalized education that empowers nurses to deliver the highest level of care. As a result, your organization can improve onboarding satisfaction and nurse retention rates, while also reducing the financial and patient care impact of turnover.


  1. 2019 National Healthcare Retention & RN Staffing Report, NSI Nursing Solutions, Inc., 2019
  2. “You should know these 10 remarkable facts about nursing,” Mackenzie Thompson,, 2016