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Blog | Labor Cost Management

Healthcare News of Note: The nation could see an alarming nurse shortage by 2025

Blog | Labor Cost Management

Healthcare News of Note: The nation could see an alarming nurse shortage by 2025

  • There are now more than 203,000 open registered nurse positions nationwide, more than twice the number just before the pandemic in January 2020.
  • The majority of telemedicine diagnoses reach the same conclusion as in-person visits for the same clinical issue when patients are seen in the same specialty within a 90-day window, according to a new study.
  • Economists and policymakers are trying to determine why a much lower percentage of working-age adults are in the labor force than before the pandemic.

Over the last few weeks, I have found these industry news stories that should be of interest to healthcare finance professionals.    

1. Travel nurses plan to leave the field due to decrease in pay, adding to the growing nationwide nursing shortage

The article “Travel nurses' gold rush is over,” published by NBC News on Sept. 3, states, “The short-lived travel nurse boom was a temporary fix for a long-term decline in the profession that predates the pandemic.

“There are now more than 203,000 open registered nurse positions nationwide, more than twice the number just before the pandemic in January 2020,” the report states, citing data from the staffing firm Aya Healthcare.

“According to a report from McKinsey & Co., the United States may see a shortage of up to 450,000 registered nurses within three years barring aggressive action by health care providers and the government to recruit new people. Nurses are quitting, and hospitals are struggling to field enough staff to cover shifts.”

What gives?

According to the article, although the travel nursing profession boomed during the pandemic, as did travel nursing salaries, the practice of paying “three times the hourly rate of staff nurses, according to federal statistics” was unsustainable.

The author, Jean Lee, wrote that based on data from the research firm Staffing Industry Analysts, travel nurses were earning an average of $124.96 an hour in 2021.

“But then, as the rate of deaths and hospitalizations from Covid waned, the demand for travel nurses fell hard, according to industry statistics, as did the pay," wrote Lee.

“Demand dropped 42 percent from January to July this year, according to Aya Healthcare.”

That has left travel nurses such as Reese Brown, who was featured in the article and who had been earning “$5,000 a week or more during the height of the pandemic,” feeling it’s not worth it to work for $2,200 per week now.

Brown, is the among the nine nurses across the country who told NBC News “they are considering alternate career paths, studying for advanced degrees or exiting the profession altogether.”

2. Study: Almost 9 in 10 telemedicine diagnoses reach the same conclusion as in-person visits for the same clinical issue

A new study noted that the provisional diagnosis established via a video telemedicine visit matched the in-person diagnosis “for most new clinical concerns.”

“Some specific clinical circumstances over video telemedicine were associated with a lower diagnostic concordance, and these patients may benefit from timely in-person follow-up,” wrote the authors of the study published Sept. 2 in JAMA Network Open.

The study also found:

  • The percentage agreement — 86.9% — also has been reported in smaller studies that examined diagnostic accuracy of virtual visits in general medical practice.
  • New patient cases presenting to primary care via telemedicine had a significantly lower diagnostic match between telemedicine and in-person visits compared with patient cases presenting first by video telemedicine to specialty clinics.
  • The diagnostic match varied between medical specialties and ICD-10 codes, with oncological, transplant and psychiatric issues having the most diagnostic concordance between video and in-person visits and otological and dermatological issues having the least diagnostic concordance.

The study was conducted at several Mayo Clinic locations between March 24 and June 24, 2020.

3. Persistent long-COVID-19 symptoms could be partially to blame for labor shortages

Economists and policymakers are trying to determine “why a much lower percentage of working-age adults are in the labor force than before the pandemic,” stated an online article in The Hill published Sept. 5.

“The number of Americans either employed or looking for work eclipsed its pre-pandemic level in August, according to Labor Department data released [Sept. 2],” according to the report. “But the labor force participation rate remains 1 percentage point below its February 2020 level, a gap roughly equivalent to 1.6 million people. 

The long COVID-19 connection

One consideration, according to author Sylvan Lane, is that “persistent C0VID-19 symptoms could be keeping millions of [working-age adults] out of the workforce.

“Roughly 16 million working-age Americans said they had long COVID in a June survey conducted by the Census Bureau, but it’s unclear how many of them are still too sick to work.” 

One analysis of the data, according to the article, showed “anywhere from 2 to 4 million long COVID sufferers could be sidelined by their symptoms.”

However, long-COVID is not the lone culprit wreaking havoc on the labor market, according to Lane.

“Many older workers who retired during the pandemic may be well-off enough to stay out of the workforce, while others with health conditions may be wary of coming back while the pandemic still poses a threat,” she wrote. 

HFMA bonus content

Read Restoring Trust in Healthcare, the latest in HFMA’s Healthcare 2030 series, featuring insight from industry leaders and experts such as Niyum Gandhi, Jason Wolf, Mark Rukavina and Steven Edwards.

Listen to HFMA’s Voices in Healthcare Finance podcast episode “The cost effectiveness of palliative care in a fee-for-service or value setting.”

About the Author

Deborah Filipek

is a senior editor at HFMA, Downers Grove, Ill.

Sign up for a free guest account and get access to five free articles every month.

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