Until Nurses Are Included in Reimbursement Models, Expect Them to Keep Leaving the Profession in Droves

Researchers project that the U.S. healthcare industry will be short 2.1 million nurses by 2025. Including them in reimbursement models might be the most effective way to address nurses’ mass exodus from the profession, according to Rebecca Love, who is a nurse and the chief clinical officer of tech-enabled nurse staffing platform IntelyCare.

She shared this idea Sunday during a panel at HLTH in Las Vegas. Interestingly, moderator Bonnie Clipper, a nurse and managing partner of Innovation Advantage, pointed out that the session was the conference’s first ever panel focused on hearing nurse voices.

Love provided some key statistics that are needed to understand the true state of the nursing shortage crisis. 

The first fact to consider is that there are five million nurses in the U.S. when licensed practical nurses and registered nurses are accounted for, according to Love. She said that means nurses are not only the largest workforce in healthcare, but also high among the largest workforces in the country.

Love also drew attention to the fact that many of the country’s nurses are approaching retirement age, saying that half of American nurses are older than 52. 

The U.S. needs a massive influx of young nurses to fill the gap that will soon be inevitably left by older ones, but the current situation for recently graduated nurses isn’t very rosy. The U.S. graduates 175,000 nursing students per year, but many of them end up quickly abandoning the profession, according to Love.

Before the pandemic, about half of new nursing graduates left the bedside within two years of practice, Love said. When you look at recent graduates that have left the profession since May 2021, she said that number has shot up to 70%.

“There has actually never been more nurses before in the United States than there are today,” Love explained. “Today there are more nurses in the United States than ever before in history — 1.5 more million today than we even had 10 years ago. We do not have a shortage of nurses. We have a shortage of nurses willing to work in the healthcare environments as they are staffed.”

Healthcare employees are leaving the industry across a variety of professions, but the nurse situation is particularly dire. A big reason so many nurses are exiting healthcare is that despite their care being an indispensable part of all hospital care delivery, they are “economically non-reimbursable,” Love argued.

She called out the reality that nurses are “a cost to health care systems.” In Love’s view, we should be asking more questions about why nurses have no reimbursement model — because that’s certainly not the case for other healthcare professionals who provide care.

“Until we fix the reimbursement model, we will simply have a profession that will cease to practice in healthcare as it is today,” Love declared.

Photo: gpointstudio, Getty Images