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The American Nursing Shortage, Stats and Solutions in 2023


Medical professionals have almost always been overworked. The hours are long, the work conditions are not ideal and the pay definitely doesn’t compensate for what they are expected to deliver. That has always been the norm. Most medical professionals will tell you, they do what they do, for their passion.

But when the Covid 19 pandemic hit in 2019, medical staff all over the world witnessed mass-scale burnout. This time, however, there were serious consequences. In the United States alone, over 100,000 nursing staff quit their jobs citing stress and burnout due to working consecutive multiple shifts in a rather unsafe work environment. Let’s answer a burning question. Is there a medical crisis in the United States?

Possibly! The United States is currently facing a shortage of nursing staff and this number is expected to grow by 2030 if no active measures are taken to resolve the situation. Let’s understand why there is a shortage of nursing staff in the United States, what are the alarming statistics that need immediate attention and the possible solutions to help resolve this shortage.

A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2021-2031 stated that America’s registered nursing workforce is expected to grow by 6% in the next ten years. The registered nurse workforce, which was 3.1 million in 2021 is expected to reach 3.3 million in 2031. That is a total increase of close to 200,000 nurses. That being said, the Bureau has also projected nursing opportunities to be well over 200,000 each year through 2031. This is after you factor in retirements and workforce exits. While these numbers are only focused on registered nurses, the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics are projecting an 11% growth in overall nursing jobs. This new employment growth is estimated at 593,500 nurses.

Additionally, nurse educators and nurse practitioners are expected to be in high demand in the coming decade.

Let’s understand these numbers briefly.

Type of Nurse 2020 numbers 2020-2030 growth Projected growth in numbers Projected growth in %
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) 1,396,700 1,512,000 +115,300 +8.26%
Licensed practical/licensed vocational nurse 688,100 751,900 +63,800 +9.27%
Registered nurse 3,080,100 3,356,800 +276,800 +8.99%
Nurse educator 72,600 88,900 +16,300 +22.45%
Nurse midwife 7300 8200 +800 +10.96%
Nurse practitioner 220,300 335,200 +114,900 +52.16%
Certified registered nurse anaesthetist 44,200 49,800 +5,600 +12.67%
Total number of nurses 5, 509, 300 6, 102, 800 593, 500 +10.77%

(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Types of Nursing Shortages in the USA

Shortage in nursing staff in the United States can be categorized into three segments depending upon the type of shortage faced:

Physical Nurse Shortage

This is a shortage of skilled nurses who are required to fill vacant positions. These positions are most likely to be vacant because healthcare professionals have retired or have moved on to other health services like telehealth and travelling healthcare.

Willing Nurse Shortage

This shortage refers to a shortage occuring when active and experienced registered nurses quit their jobs due to burnout, low pay and unreasonable work schedules.

Experienced hire shortage

Healthcare requires nurses with special training and experience to handle all kinds of medical situations including emergencies, childcare, trauma, intensive care, surgery, pathology, etc. Without vetting for proper training or education, healthcare recruiters are unable to fill in positions for specialty nurses.

The big question is –

Why are nurses quitting their jobs?

Increased working hours

Working hours for nurses, full-time or even part-time are unreasonably long. Healthcare institutions even expect nursing staff to stay for multiple shifts. Even before the pandemic hit, the working hours at healthcare facilities weren’t flexible enough. At the peak of the pandemic, the working hours for medical staff, especially nursing staff, became longer than usual. Increased patient intake, political and social unrest and a failing economy meant nurses were working around the clock. These increased working hours caused a tremendous amount of physical and mental exhaustion – those nurses who were unable to cope with the pressure eventually handed in their resignations.

Lack of downtime resulting in fatigue

A high pressure work environment clubbed with long work hours can result in serious, physical and mental exhaustion. Lack of a reasonable downtime can result in fatigued nursing staff. Without the right amount of rest, nursing staff run the risk of mistakes. These mistakes can lead to serious consequences, including fatalities, and consequential medical malpractice litigations. Not only does such a practice impact the reputation of the healthcare institution, it also demoralizes nursing staff, ultimately resulting in resignations. About 85% of nurses experience career fatigue and 40% nurses experience compassion fatigue – which diminishes their ability to empathize with patients.

High burnout rate

Even if nursing staff are able to cope up with high pressure, long hours, and fatigue, it is humanly impossible to cope for an extended period of time. Eventually, the nursing staff will face intense burn out and will have to opt out of their service position. At least 25% of nursing staff in the United States have reported feeling symptoms of burnout. These symptoms stress, anxiety, depression, and an overall emotional exhaustion. Additionally, several nurses have also reported feeling a diminished sense of professional achievement.

More cases of medical negligence and medical mistakes

Medical malpractice cases generally fall into three major categories: errors in diagnosis, surgical errors and errors in treatment. In the United States, 26% of claims are related to failure to diagnose; 24% of claims are related to errors occuring during surgery, and 28.5% of claims are related to improper treatment. About 10% of deaths occuring in the United States are due to medical malpractice and an average of 15,000 to 18,000 medical malpractice lawsuits are filed each year. Low manpower, high stress and severe burnout can result in medical mistakes, loss of empathy that might culminate into patient abuse and serious errors while administering drugs. Medical malpractice can ruin careers of doctors as well as nurses and that is why several nurses are quitting their jobs or switching to other service options in a bid to avoid litigation.

Ageing workforce

As of 2023, the United States employs over 5.3 million nurses. Here is a breakdown of the number of nurses in the United States categorised by type of nurse employment and those reaching retirement age.

Type of nurse employment Total number Number of nurses aged 55 years and over
Registered Nurse (RN) 2,986,500 647,565
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) 1,371,050 291, 499
Licensed Practical/Licensed Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN) 676,440 169,110
Nurse Educator (NE) 61,100 N/A
Nurse Midwife (CNM) 7,120 2,848
Nurse Practitioner (NP) 211,280 38,767
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) 41,960 8,991
Total Number of Nurses 5,355,450 1,158,780

(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

With close to 20% of the current nursing workforce nearing retirement age in the coming decade, it is important that healthcare facilities take urgent steps to prevent a possible manpower shortage and consecutive healthcare service crisis in the near future.

Switching to telehealth and travelling medical services

Remote working has become the new norm and it has also led to the rise of telehealth services. Telehealth services allow patients with minor health concerns like aches, pains, mild fever etc. seek medical attention without physically visiting a health facility – more and more health professionals are switching from full time and part time healthcare work to telehealth consultation. Similarly, travelling physicians and nurses are not only affordable, they provide healthcare consultations in the comfort of a patient’s home. This makes the service much more lucrative than going to a hospital.

Suggested reading on Nurse Career: Career as a Nurse in US in 2023

How to address the shortage of nursing and medical staff?

Optimizing specialized staffing agencies

Staffing agencies that specialize in healthcare recruitment have increasingly become the need of the hour. In order to resolve healthcare staffing shortages, medical staffing agencies assist and aid hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare organizations in medical recruitment. Through extensive research and cutting-edge technology driven recruitment solutions, medical staffing agencies provide healthcare institutions with the right talent to fill their vacant positions. These agencies provide complete end-to-end staffing solutions; from sourcing, screening, to filtering candidates, in order to help you find the best talent for your healthcare needs. They also offer various additional services, such as credentialing, background checks, and onboarding, to ensure their candidates meet the necessary qualifications and are ready to work.

Using AI-based recruiting solutions to help with recruiting medical professionals

By using artificial intelligence solutions, healthcare recruitment professionals can optimize each phase of the recruitment process. AI-based recruitment software can be used at every stage of the recruiting process from posting applications to onboarding new employees. AI based solutions can help recruiters easily shortlist applications, assign assessments based on the candidate’s skill set, schedule interviews, roll out offer letters and even onboard new employees into the system. The advanced AI in Arya is revolutionizing the healthcare recruiting industry by using 300+ parameters and 7 multi-dimensional data points to score and rank talent for compatibility. Arya simultaneously helps source candidates from multiple channels in under 5 minutes, reducing candidate review and shortlisting time by 50%. Request a Demo to understand how Arya can help your organization streamline its healthcare staffing challenges in time to avoid a nursing shortage crisis.

Offering competitive pay in the home state

As per a report published in April 2023, by the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics, registered nurses make about $42.80 per hour on average. However, the pay for registered nurses differs greatly per State. Registered nurses in California had the highest average annual wage, followed by Hawaii and Oregon. Meanwhile, the States of Arkansas and South Dakota were at the bottom of the average at $31 per hour.

Here is the average pay for registered nurses per State.

State Average pay per hour Average pay per year
California $64.10 $133,340
Hawaii $54.43 $113,220
Oregon $51.26 $106,610
Massachusetts $50.07 $104,150
Alaska $49.67 $103,310
Washington $48.88 $101,670
New York $48.14 $100,130
District of Columbia $47.23 $98,230
New Jersey $46.48 $96,670
Nevada $46.30 $96,310
Connecticut $45.32 $94,260
Minnesota $42.72 $88,860
Rhode Island $42.43 $88,250
Maryland $42.30 $87,990
Arizona $41.70 $86,740
Colorado $41.63 $86,590
New Mexico $41.15 $85,580
Georgia $40.95 $85,180
Delaware $40.88 $85,020
Texas $40.54 $84,320
New Hampshire $40.11 $83,420
Illinois $39.53 $82,220
Virginia $39.36 $81,860
Wyoming $38.95 $81,010
Wisconsin $38.94 $81,000
Michigan $38.78 $80,660
Pennsylvania $38.76 $80,630
Vermont $38.46 $79,990
Florida $38.42 $79,910
Idaho $37.79 $78,610
Ohio $37.72 $78,450
Montana $37.67 $78,350
Kentucky $37.32 $77,620
Maine $37.22 $77,410
North Carolina $37.22 $77,410
Oklahoma $36.98 $76,920
Utah $36.73 $76,400
Louisiana $36.50 $75,920
Indiana $36.34 $75,580
North Dakota $36.06 $75,000
South Carolina $35.74 $74,330
Nebraska $35.34 $73,510
Tennessee $34.85 $72,480
West Virginia $34.73 $72,230
Kansas $34.61 $71,990
Missouri $34.55 $71,860
Iowa $33.35 $69,370
Mississippi $32.66 $67,930
Alabama $32.17 $66,910
Arkansas $31.98 $66,530
South Dakota $31.01 $64,500

Suggested Reading for Nurses Salary: 2023 Salary Guide for US Nurse Practitioners

The cost of nursing school can vary significantly between States, but it is also dependent on several other factors, including the degree chosen i.e. vocational or specialty, whether the course is part time or full time, whether the institution offering the program is an in-state or out-of-state institution and whether or not the institution is a private or public school. To give you a brief idea, associate degrees in nursing tend to cost less. Some programs can cost as little as $3,000. However, more advanced degrees can cost up to $100,000, especially at private schools. With the fee for studying nursing being high, nurses expect to get a return on their investment. Now, if there is such a huge difference of pay between States, it is unlikely that nurses might want to remain in their home state and not opt for higher paying jobs outside of their hometowns. Offering competitive pay or lucrative incentives in their home states will encourage nurses to work in rural States and not flock to urban States.

Over To You

1 in 3 nurses are likely to quit their job in the next five years as per a report by USA Today. The United States National Council of State Boards of Nursing stated in a report that about 100,000 registered nurses have left the profession since 2020. More than 600,000 intend to leave by 2027 due to stress, burnout and retirement. By optimizing staffing agencies and using artificial intelligence recruitment solutions, healthcare services should be able to mitigate the risk (if not completely avoid) a healthcare service crisis in the coming decade.

If you are a healthcare recruiter or a medical staffing agency struggling with filling nurses shortage, you can explore AI hiring tools like Arya by Leoforce. To see how it can accelerate your hiring, Request a Demo today!


  • https://www.justgreatlawyers.com/legal-guides/medical-malpractice-statistics
  • https://www.zippia.com/advice/nursing-burnout-statistics/

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