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September 23, 2022

Nursing Labor Shortage: A Next-Gen Perspective

Ken Perez
Vice President of Healthcare Policy and Government Affairs

For the twentieth year in a row, nursing has been ranked as the most trusted profession. But the stressors of COVID-19 revealed burnout and job dissatisfaction that too many nurses experience. In a recent McKinsey survey, nearly 30 percent of responding RNs indicated they were likely to leave their role in direct patient care.

I recently sat down with Catherine Gilliss, PhD, RN, FAAN, who is the Dean and Styles Professor of Nursing at UCSF School of Nursing, as well as the Associate Vice-Chancellor for Nursing Affairs at the University of California San Francisco, to discuss the root causes of the nursing shortage, and why we need to prepare the public for paradigm shifts as the next generation of nurses enter the workforce.

Nurses are the engine of productivity in healthcare. But we often fail to recognize that their ability to exercise their own professional judgment is very limited, contributing to the demise of professional practice – an emerging term to describe nursing.

According to Dr. Gilliss, the language we use to describe nurses matters. Calling nurses “labor” or a “workforce” belies that nurses are professionals performing in a field that requires simultaneous tactical skills and critical thinking. It strips away any sense of professional autonomy or professional responsibility.

In her career, Dr. Gilliss has led several programs that brought “second-degree” students into the nursing field. Whether they had come from investment banking, law, or other areas of healthcare, these professionals realized they wanted to derive more meaning from their work and sought that meaning in nursing.

Today, there is a threat to meaningful work. Nurses are frustrated, burned out, and not supported. And they are considering their options.

When asked what C-suite leaders, particularly CIOs, could do to impact the nursing shortage, Dr. Gilliss emphasized that nurses are experts at workarounds. Still, as long as they quietly fix problems, leadership will not understand what needs to be fixed.

She advocated for a stronger partnership with CIOs who help deliver information to nurses, such as providing feedback on what’s happening at the bedside so that even new nurses have the benefit of recognizing patterns and being able to scale their work.

Listening and engagement are first on her list of solutions to the complex problem that is the nursing shortage. And Omnicell, Dr. Gilliss said, is known for its collaboration with nurses. By developing the technology to streamline workflows and automate manual tasks, Omnicell frees time for professional practice and patient care. In short, meaningful work.

Listen to a replay of this Fireside Chat from the Scottsdale Institute by clicking this link.

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company. Assumptions made in the analysis do not reflect the position of any entity other than the author(s). These views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time and may not be held in perpetuity.