Recent news articles have spilled a lot of ink on the current shortage of nurses. According to Pew, due to a shortage of nurses, “hospitals are canceling nationwide non-emergency operations, they are struggling to quickly find beds for patients and failing to meet the minimum nurse-patient ratio, experts recommend.” Nurses’ salaries are also rising. That Baltimore Sun. reports that the University of Maryland Medical System plans to spend $ 5.1 million on recruiting nurses. However, these are anecdotal accounts. What do the data say at the national level?
An article by Buerhaus et al. (2022) use aggregate wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and unemployment data from the Current Population Survey (CPS). The data cover the period from February 2020 (just before the pandemic) to June 2021.
Based on the data, the authors find a decline in health care employment that is “unprecedented.”
By April 2020, employment had fallen the most in doctors’ offices (-11 percent), outpatient centers (-8 percent) and home care (-7 percent). Employment fell the least in hospitals (−2 percent), the largest employer of RNs, in part due to an influx of COVID-19 patients and other patients whose care could not be postponed. Nursing homes experienced only a small decline in April 2020 (−3 percent), but unlike in other sectors, the decline in nursing homes continued into 2021. Employment in most sectors gradually returned to pre-pandemic levels during 2020, except in the nursing home sector, where the decline continued steadily. Employment levels had risen in hospitals (-2.2 percent), doctors’ offices (-0.7 percent) and outpatient clinics (+2.6 percent) in June 2021. But fifteen months into the pandemic, total employment in nursing homes remained at 13.2 percent. lower than it had been in February 2020
While post-pandemic employment decreased by only 1% for registered nurses compared to a pre-pandemic baseline, these figures were 10% for licensed practical or professional nurses (LPN / LVN) and a decrease of 20% for nurses (NAs). ). As a context point, health care employment has never fallen any year during the previous 3 decades.
Nurses’ salaries have also risen dramatically, especially for / LVNs and NAs. For hospital-based LPN / LVNs and NAs, wage growth was more than 10% last year.