Why the World Needs More Healthcare Professionals

May 16, 2023
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* This blog is part of the Tackling the Biggest Healthcare Challenges series.  

Inadequate staffing can contribute to reduced job satisfaction, the inability to provide quality care, and lost revenue for healthcare facilities. The demand for nurses and allied health professionals isn't facility based or exclusive to the United States; it's gone global.

In addition to the staffing shortages, an increased focus on preventative care, nurses retiring from the profession, healthcare expectations of the aging baby boomer population, and value-based reimbursement have contributed to the need for additional nursing and allied health staff.  

A Growing Global Need for Healthcare Professionals

Maintaining adequate staffing to meet the increased demands for nurses remains ongoing. The nursing shortage has been around for a while, and the pandemic has only exacerbated it, keeping recruitment and retention foremost on the minds of healthcare leaders.  

Nurses comprise half of the global health workforce, and studies consistently highlight nurses expressing an increased intention to leave the profession, contributing to a growing nurse workforce shortage. Twenty percent of the National Nurses Associations (NNAs) indicated more nurses resigning from their positions. In addition, allied health professionals are in demand; 85% of healthcare facilities are experiencing moderate shortages, with radiologic technicians being the most significant need, followed by laboratory technicians and occupational therapists.  

Lessening Global Healthcare Staffing Shortages

According to the International Council of Nurses Policy Brief, before COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that low and lower-middle-income countries experienced 89% of nursing shortages. In addition to an aging workforce that significantly strains the healthcare industry, overburdened medical professionals received even more patients with critical needs when the pandemic began. They struggled with insufficient resources, risks to personal health due to exposure to the virus, burnout, and stress. Countries scrambled to get more healthcare students, but the time between completing their education and real-world readiness still left a gap of inadequate staffing.  

Nurses and allied health professionals in some countries faced physical violence, were asked to volunteer, or were mandated to return to practice from inactive or retired status. These are not permanent fixes to a staffing crisis but have merely put a temporary Band-Aid on staffing shortages until other solutions are available.  

Research suggests the nursing shortage will continue to spread through 2030. The statistics for U.S. nursing shortages project the national demand for nurses to grow 9% annually from 2020-2030, amounting to 194,500 nurses needed yearly.  

A growing need for healthcare workers across the globe resulted in healthcare professionals immigrating to new countries. Health Carousel is committed to ethically recruiting health professionals to assist healthcare facilities with their staffing needs. To display the extent of our dedication, we've committed to being part of a global force addressing the sustainability of healthcare workers.

Our Light the Way initiative aims to lessen the shortfall of nurses globally by embracing the three social pillars of this initiative: sustainability, development, and ethical recruitment. Through this initiative, we offer scholarships, mentoring, and professional development. We focus on helping care for today's nurses and health professionals while developing and maintaining the future healthcare workforce.

The Cycle Contributing to the Healthcare Staffing Shortages

Nurses and allied health professionals often put their patient needs before their own and must adapt to the fast-paced and ever-changing healthcare environment. Still, they can only maintain that momentum for a short time. Passion isn't always enough to push through the exhaustion of the physical and mental demands of the job.  

Excessive overtime, inadequate staffing, staff turnover, limited time for patient care, fear of workplace violence, and an unsatisfactory work-life balance may contribute to some nurses leaving the profession. Moreover, inadequate staffing creates a cycle of job dissatisfaction, which can lead to burnout and further add to the nursing shortage.  

Key But the need for increased nurse and allied health staffing levels impacts more than retention. It can impair the ability to provide safe patient care and continuity of care, which can be costly to a healthcare facility's reputation and finances.

Inadequate Staffing Risks

The global nursing workforce is aging, and 17% expect to retire within the next ten years. This trend results in the need to educate and employ an additional 4.7 million nurses to maintain current workforce numbers, with a total demand of 10.6 million additional nurses by 2030.

Recruiting and retaining enough nurses is even more challenging with inadequate nursing faculty to educate future nurses. The gap between clinical and academic salaries, necessary experience, and education may have contributed to a nursing faculty shortage, forcing some nursing programs to limit their student capacity.

Inadequate healthcare staffing includes the following risks:

  • Understaffing increases a patient’s risk of infection by 15%. The American Nurses Association (ANA) recognizes the importance of safe nurse staffing and emphasizes how nurse-to-patient ratios impact patient care. Medication errors, increased risk of patient harm and morbidity/mortality rates, and job dissatisfaction can result from a higher nurse-to-patient ratio. Many nurses still feel their units are understaffed. A recent study by Nurse.org, 71% believe that improving staffing ratios would significantly impact the nursing shortage.

  • The rate of workplace violence is higher in healthcare than in private industry. Inadequate staffing levels and the need to perform uncomfortable or painful procedures for fearful or confused patients increase the risk of physical or verbal abuse. In addition, they can contribute to an undesirable, unsafe work environment.

  • Job-associated environmental and physical injury risks increase due to the advanced age of the workforce. The hectic pace, fatigue, and long hours can decrease alertness and awareness. This can result an increased risk for injuries from patient care, needle sticks, or exposure to bloodborne pathogens.  

The Cost Of Healthcare Staffing Shortages to Healthcare Facilities

Since 2012, the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) has been pivotal in reimbursement through the hospital Value-Based Payment. Value-based care emphasizes rewarding healthcare professionals for value over volume, holistic and preventative care, reducing costs, and more collaboration across units/specialties.  

Having inadequate nursing and allied health staff is costly to healthcare facilities—well beyond immediate financial impacts. It can result in the following:

  • Canceling appointments or procedures  
  • Unfavorably impacting the facility’s reputation and potentially losing providers
  • The possible adverse effect on the length of inpatient stays, intensive care unit (ICU) statistics, and emergency department (ED) wait times
  • Reduction of overall facility ratings and rankings  

These factors contribute to providing less than quality care. Inefficient or ineffective recruitment and retention efforts may result in a loss in revenue, with the average cost of nurse turnover at $40k and up to 89 days to fill a vacant registered nurse position, making each loss of healthcare staff a significant expense.  

Caring for More Patients with Complex or Chronic Conditions  

When The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded access, some patients who may have never had healthcare and others with more diverse or complex needs acquired a care avenue. The surge in healthcare usage continued to rise as the baby boomer generation reached retirement age.  

An aging population, with typically more than one morbidity, has required increased medical care. Healthcare professionals now consider some once-terminal diseases chronic, requiring long-term treatment and straining the healthcare workforce.  

The shift toward a heightened emphasis on health promotion and holistic patient-centered care also requires a more extensive, diverse, and highly educated nursing workforce with the expertise to care for more patients with complex needs.  

Nurturing Nurse Educators Will Help Global Healthcare Shortages

Due to existing nursing shortages, the aging of the nursing workforce, and the continuing COVID-19 effect, ICN estimates up to 13 million nurses will be needed to fill the global nurse shortage gap in the future. We’re hoping that our efforts can help.  

The Light the Way initiative focuses on the ethical recruitment and global sustainability of nurses by funding nurse training and education programs in the U.S. and abroad. Our focus on nursing education aims to lessen the U.S. and global nursing shortage. We have provided over $10 million in scholarships, producing more than 100 nurse educators and 1,000s of new nurses. This effort is only one of Health Carousel's international nursing sustainability endeavors.

Another is building nurse educational capacity to increase the number of nursing faculty to support the profession. These investments can impact patient care, encourage health professionals to embrace lifelong learning, and assist healthcare facilities with workforce shortages.

Recruiting and Retaining Quality Healthcare Professionals

Workforce shortages affect everyone, but filling a staffing gap isn’t the solution. This short-term solution focusing on survival will only help the organization thrive in the short run. Healthcare professionals are crucial to shaping the reality of your healthcare facility for all staff and patients. After obtaining quality nurses and allied health professionals, the goal is to retain them. Adequate staffing helps to ensure that healthcare leadership can focus on other priorities beyond the recruitment cycle, which could result in neglecting current employees.  

Recruiting professional healthcare staff committed to quality patient care is vital for your organization, and Health Carousel can help. We are a Certified Ethical Firm that recognizes the value of promoting ethical leadership and recruitment practices. We recruit foreign-educated health professionals through the Alliance for Ethical International Recruitment Practices.

As a founding American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment (AAIHR) member, we embrace these business practices, striving to help healthcare facilities maintain adequate staffing levels. Our focus on supporting the nurses of today, future nurses, and other allied health professionals can help reduce the overall global health workforce shortage while assisting with your staffing needs today.

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About Health Carousel

Health Carousel is committed to partnering with world-class healthcare facilities across the country, providing rewarding assignments for Registered Nurses and Allied Health Professionals, and attracting the best internal talent at all career levels.