2021 Nursing Shortage Means Trial by Fire for Recent Graduates


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a shortage of medical staff at all levels. However, the pandemic did not start the shortage of nurses affecting medical centers around the U.S. Several factors have contributed to the lack of nurses making their way through college to be employed. An aging population and limited spaces for student nurses means turnover rates have grown across many states and increased the pressure on recently graduated nurses.

The number of available jobs in medical environments means registered nurses are put to work as soon as they pass a criminal background check. Nurses have been in short supply for decades in some parts of the U.S., including Texas. The turnover rate along the Gulf Coast of Texas for registered nurses has grown to 17 percent as nurses suffer burnout. The rate of burnout is higher than in the past and has been exaggerated by the arrival of the pandemic. Nursing shortages are causing problems for hospital administrators, who are finding their options for new staff are limited to inexperienced graduates.

The biggest fear for administrators is that new graduates will suffer burnout long before their more experienced peers. Burnout is a problem that faces nurses because of the high levels of pressure they face from day one of their employment as they make important decisions about their patients. One of the biggest problems facing recent graduates is the stress they experience when thrust into a new work environment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the level of turnover and burnout seen in the medical sector. Studies have revealed as many as 40-percent of frontline nurses in the healthcare sector are at risk of burnout because of the rise in COVID-19 cases. As the several variants rise in the U.S. and across the world, nursing staff face more than 18-months of stressful working conditions.

The trial by fire undertaken by recent graduates includes learning how to handle the different people involved in treating a patient. Alongside their interactions with fellow medical staff members, recent graduates must learn to interact with patients and family members.

Another problem area is the complex nature of the medical conditions a recent graduate needs to understand. Alongside injuries and accidents, recently graduated nurses are being forced to learn about diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure without the requisite experience.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted several areas of concern for recently graduated nurses. Included in these are the problems of a lack of funding across the board. Hospitals and medical groups have seen the number of surgical cases plummet as COVID-19 cases have had a financial impact on all departments. Recently graduated nursing staff will have been trained to work with specific supplies and technology that may not be available in the real world.

Across the medical sector, the number of uninsured and underinsured people in the U.S. is causing problems for recently graduated nurses. The available treatments have been limited in several situations because of a fear of costly treatments among underinsured patients. Recently graduated nurses are being thrust into complex medical therapies to treat patients who are being moved quickly to acute care.

Other factors are coming into play to limit the level of support recently graduated nurses receive. Experience nursing staff are aging and retiring to leave significant gaps in experience in all departments. These problems are coupled with a lack of internships for nurses training at college, which must be provided by an experienced nurse overseeing only ten students. The combination of a lack of professional assistance for recent graduates and underfunded departments is adding to the stress felt by nurses from day one of their careers.

The highlighting of fatigue and stress as a problem for nurses at all levels has improved some conditions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, recently graduated nurses still struggle to get the support they need to learn on the job successfully.

The Mazatlan Post