The U.S. has been experiencing a Registered Nurse/nursing shortage for decades, but the issue is expected to worsen with a growing aging population, the rising incidence of chronic disease, an aging Nurse workforce with more individuals retiring, and the limited capacity of nursing school enrollment. The shortage is expected to impact our hospitals, nursing homes and skilled care facilities, as well as the home health care and hospice industry.
Take a look at the statistics: America’s three million nurses make up the largest segment of the health-care workforce in the U.S., and nursing is currently one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. However, despite this growth, demand is outpacing supply. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.2 million vacancies will emerge for registered nurses between 2014 and 2022. By 2025, the shortfall is expected to be “more than twice as large as any nurse shortage experienced since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in the mid-1960s,” according to a white paper produced in 2009 by Vanderbilt University nursing researchers.
The primary driver behind the need for more nurses is the number of Americans over the age of 65, which constitutes the Baby Boomer generation. Between 2010 and 2030, the population of senior citizens will increase by 75% to 69 million; by 2050, an estimated 88.5 million people in the U.S. will be aged 65 and older. As this population ages, demand for health-care services will soar. According to the National Council on Aging, about 80% of older adults have at least one chronic condition, and 68% have at least two. Analysis by USA Today of Medicare data revealed that more than 4 million beneficiaries— about 15% — have at least six long-term ailments.
Other contributing factors for more nurses include the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has provided increased access to health care services for more individuals. Reform initiatives under the ACA have placed greater emphasis on primary care, prevention, wellness and chronic disease management. Community-based care is growing and specialties, such as geriatrics, informatics, and care coordinators, are flourishing.
What does the nursing shortage mean for the home health care industry? A nursing shortage can indirectly contribute to increased workload spread among fewer workers, which in turn can affect morale and retention of those employees. An increase in workload among home health nurses may also impact vacancy and turnover in this setting. Without adequate staff, health care agencies may not be able to meet demand, and will likely have to turn down clients. Agencies may also not be able to expand their services without the proper mix of professional and para-professional staff.
Other consequences of inadequate nursing staff for home health care providers include difficulty completing required documentation on time, using professional administrative staff to cover nursing visits, an increase in involuntary overtime, increased patient/family complaints, and an increased number of incident reports, among others.
It’s critical for home health care and hospice providers to have a solid nursing recruitment and retention strategy in place to meet their client needs today and into the future. This will not only help with having a successful business and providing proper care but also will serve to mitigate potential professional liability and workers’ compensation exposures that come with an inadequate staff and the resulting potential for increased errors, accidents, and injuries.
About Manchester Specialty
Manchester Specialty provides insurance solutions to the home health care and hospice industry that include Professional Liability, Workers’ Compensation, General Liability and other critical coverages. For more information about our insurance programs, you or your local agent/broker may contact us at 855.972.9399.