Nursemaggedon Has Now Arrived
Nurse salaries have not kept up with inflation
Nurses have been quitting the profession at record levels since mid-2021, leading to a falling growth rate that is dangerously close to 0.
Around the same time, inflation started to outpace the growth of nurse salaries.
While nurses hold increasingly negative sentiment towards their workplaces, their biggest disappointment is with their compensation.
In a previous newsletter, we highlighted the possibility of a “nursemageddon” as the demand for nurses skyrocketed but the supply stagnated during the pandemic. Three years later, news of nurse strikes are making headlines over concerns around understaffing and low pay. Has nursemageddon arrived?
The pandemic put a spotlight on the nursing shortage in the US, when the gap between demand and supply of nurses widened. While the growth rate of nurses rebounded momentarily in mid-2020 thanks to public appreciation and salary increases, it never recovered to its pre-pandemic level. The continued burnout, aging nurses, and the shortage of nursing educators has led to nurses quitting the profession at a high rate, and fewer new nurses joining. This has led to an alarming decrease in the growth of the number of nurses since mid-2021, leaving the healthcare system vulnerable to the next health emergency.
Another key driving force behind this slowdown in the growth of nurse employment has been slow salary growth. While the beginning of the pandemic saw a temporary uptick in nurse salaries to combat initial shortages, the subsequent decline of Covid cases and the return to business-as-usual decreased pressures for hospitals to offer high salaries to nurses. As a result, increases in nurse salaries have lagged behind those of other medical professionals, and most importantly have not kept up with soaring inflation.
Faltering nurse salaries are clearly reflected in nurses' declining sentiment. Overall nurse sentiment has steadily decreased since mid-2021, when salary growth began stagnating. While the decline in nurses’ overall sentiment is present in every aspect of their work, the decline in nurses' scores for compensation and benefits since 2021 stands out the most.
Uncompetitive nurse salaries are leading to high attrition and low growth rates. The steep decline in the growth of nurses will lead to further understaffing and worse working conditions, which may lead more nurses to exit the field. Now that nursemaggedon has arrived, it is crucial for employers to break this vicious cycle and to offer competitive salaries to attract nurses to enter and remain in the profession.