Registered nurses (RNs) play a vital role in the United States healthcare system, offering crucial care to people nationwide. However, the U.S. is currently facing a shortage of nurses, posing a threat to the accessibility and availability of healthcare services across the nation. The departure of healthcare professionals can be attributed to the pandemic, with many resigning due to the emotional and physical fatigue experienced while on the frontline. While the impact of the nursing shortage is undeniably felt nationwide, it is particularly affecting rural America. Just take Virginia for example—according to a 2021 report from the Virginia Office of Rural Health, a survey of rural hospitals in the state revealed that approximately half had to turn away patients seeking care due to a shortage of nurses. Rural hospitals are in desperate need of a solution, as the nursing shortage directly impacts the health and safety of the communities they serve.
What factors contribute to the growing nursing shortage?
The root cause of the nursing shortage can be traced back to the pandemic. The Association of Colleges of Nurses reported that over 80,000 qualified nursing applicants were turned away from enrolling in nursing programs 2020 due to insufficient access to resources, faculty, and clinical sites necessary for advancing their nursing education. Additionally, retirement plays a role in increasing the shortage—the average age of retirement for an RN is50, which raises concerns about a rapid decline in the nursing workforce due to mass retirements. The combination of nurses exiting the profession due to physical and emotional burnout, encountering educational obstacles, and retirement has had a detrimental impact on the U.S. healthcare system and the nursing workforce in general.
How is the nursing shortage impacting rural communities?
According to the Virginia Office of Rural Health, many rural hospitals are struggling not only to maintain operations but also to meet payroll obligations for their staff. The pandemic did not help this situation, as outpatient services that increased their cash flow were heavily scaled back. In addition to rural hospitals having to turn away patients in need, the Virginia Office of Rural Health also reports that 27% of rural hospitals surveyed had to discontinue specific services, leaving residents within their communities without essential care. Urgently requiring a solution, rural hospitals find themselves in dire need of addressing the nursing shortage to ensure adequate healthcare provision for their communities.
Can travel nursing help solve staffing shortages in rural communities?
The solution to the rural nursing shortage could lie in leveraging the capabilities of travel nurses. Travel nurses frequently relocate to various regions across the country, offering essential services wherever they are needed. The flexibility of travel nurses in choosing their work locations presents an opportunity for rural hospitals to attract them to their communities. There are many advantages to incorporating travel nurses into rural settings.
To start, travel nurses can provide immediate relief to rural hospitals grappling with nursing shortages, allowing these facilities to address patient needs without turning anyone away. This ensures that people within these communities receive the vital care they need. The integration of travel nurses into rural hospitals increases patient access to healthcare in other crucial ways, as it eliminates the need for community members to travel long distances for treatment or, in some cases, forgo treatment altogether. Finally, the incorporation of travel nurses, particularly those in different specialties, can diversify the range of services offered by rural hospitals. This diversification helps prevent the discontinuation of specific services due to a shortage of healthcare professionals.
In addressing the nursing shortage within rural hospitals, travel nurses are a highly effective solution. Their expertise and adaptability are a viable solution for rural healthcare facilities struggling to provide for their communities. The integration of travel nurses into rural hospitals can provide immediate relief, with the added advantage of tapping into their wealth of knowledge and skills. Undoubtedly, travel nurses leave a positive and impactful imprint on rural communities, ensuring they receive the crucial care they need.
Staff Your Rural Healthcare Facility with BHS Travel Nurses
Barton Healthcare Staffing is national leader in travel nursing & allied health staffing. If your healthcare facility is experiencing a nursing shortage, connect with us to find experienced travel nurses ready to make a positive impact in your facility. Click here to learn more.