Nurse Practitioner Role Contributes to Bedside Nursing Shortage

A recent CNN article highlighted the despair that American bedside nurses have faced during the pandemic. Nurses are burned out, overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated. Many are leaving their profession and their calling because they have reached their limit.

Even before COVID-19, bedside nurses were stretched thin. A recently published study in JAMA interviewed nurses who had left or were considering leaving their job.  The most common reason: inadequate staffing, reported by over 60% of respondents.  As additional nurses leave the workforce due to retirement, there is a severe nursing shortage in the country that is expected to worsen by 2030.

Another reason for a bedside nursing shortage: the increase in nurses leaving the bedside to become nurse practitioners.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), 30,000 new nurse practitioners graduated in 2018-2019. That’s 30,000 nurses who left their vital role at the bedside advocating for patients to pursue an alternative path. While some of these nurse practitioners joined the primary care work force and provided care in underserved areas, many are increasingly choosing to work in sub-specialty care, while others have elected to open medispas and hormone “clinics” treating the worried well.

The AANP proudly proclaims that there are almost 280,000 nurse practitioners in the United States.  But they fail to mention their role in worsening the bedside nursing shortage and contributing to the burnout rates among these bedside nurses.  In fact, a February 2020 study found that nurse practitioner training has reduced the number of registered nurses by another 80,000 nationwide.

Nurses can Solve the Nursing Shortage

With a projected nursing shortage of about 150,000 nurses in 2020, nurse practitioners could single-handedly nearly resolve the nursing shortage immediately–no more bedside nurses that feel traumatized from inadequate staffing. Morale would instantaneously improve.  All that is needed is for nurse practitioners to listen to their fellow nurses’ cries for help.  So…are nurse practitioners willing to help their struggling nursing colleagues? Or will they leave them behind and let them suffer, leaving patients to pay the price?

Our bedside nurses are screaming and begging for help, yet they are being left behind despite years of dedication and loyalty. Let’s listen to the needs of our nurses and help prevent qualified competent clinicians from leaving their field. Our patients deserve better.