Minnesota Nursing Shortage: Fact or Fiction?

5 Jan

By Mathew Keller, RN JD, MNA Nurse Policy Specialist

We’ve all heard the news about the “nursing crisis” or “nursing shortage,” but imagine my surprise when, after graduating froNursem the University of Minnesota’s BSN program about 10 years ago, my classmates and I had a difficult time finding jobs. In fact, many of my peers were eventually forced to take on travel nursing assignments. Several are still in California, Missouri, and even Hawaii.

We here at MNA take claims of a nursing shortage very seriously. One of our priorities is to advocate for the profession. But, after digging into the numbers, we were surprised by what we found.

There is no nursing shortage in Minnesota. Not even close. According to the Department of Employment and Economic Development, Minnesota will add 850 RN jobs over the next year. In addition, 931 RNs will leave the profession for various reasons, leaving a total of 1,781 RN jobs that will need to be filled.

What we’re experiencing is a combination of factors that artificially reduces the availability of nurses and leads to the perception of a nursing shortage when one doesn’t really exist.

  • Employers are turning away two-thirds of  nursing graduates because they are not baccalaureate-prepared.
  • Hospitals require nurses to have experience in order to be considered for employment. That raises the age-old conundrum: how can you get experience when no one will hire you?

Having almost 1,800 RN openings may seem daunting until this fact is compared to the number of new licensees: Minnesota licensed 6,267 new registered nurses just last year. That’s more than three RNs for every new job opening. Even if we included just RN graduates from Minnesota nursing schools rather than nurse transfers to the state, that’s still almost two RNs for every new job opening.

Over the next ten years, DEED projects Minnesota will add 9,477 RN jobs; and 10,850 more RNs are expected to leave the profession.

Therefore, Minnesota will need 20,330 new RNs through the year 2025.

Assuming no increase or decrease in the number of students sitting for the NCLEX-RN in Minnesota, we will add three times as many nurses as there will be job openings. However, the number of licensed applicants will surely increase, as it has doubled over the past five years.

So why does the nursing shortage myth continue to be perpetuated on a nearly daily basis?  Maybe because of the following:

  • Employers who hire on the basis of academic degree (i.e. BSN only) limit their potential pool of applicants to about half of those qualified on the basis of their licenses (i.e. RN), and don’t help nurses further their education once they are hired.
  •  Rural facilities often offer lower salaries and benefits, and thus may have a more difficult time attracting applicants.
  • Of 1,699 current RN job vacancies, 53 percent are part time.  While many may desire this option, most nurses seek the pay and/or benefits associated with full-time work.
  •  Of current job vacancies, 65 percent require more than one year of experience. Again, this severely restricts the potential pool of applicants and belies a lack of investment in training and the future of a facility’s nursing staff.
  •  The average median wage for Minnesota RNs is $33.92/hr. However, despite requiring more than a year of experience, the current median offer for RN wages is laughably lower: $26.90.
  • 56 percent of nurses surveyed by MNA have considered leaving their units because of concern for patient safety/lack of breaks. 68 percent believe their unit is understaffed once or more a month. According to the research, facilities with unfavorable staffing levels have higher turnover, higher burnout, more difficulty in attracting new RNs, and worse patient outcomes.
  • Nursing continues to be a profession that requires a high level of physical stamina. Nurses experience a disproportionate number of injuries – including cumulative injury from micro-tears that may prematurely end a nurse’s career. Regrettably, there is an overreliance on using nurses to move patients and a systemic lack of focus on using equipment (coupled with pressure to do more with less – and more quickly).
  • As we all know, hospitals often choose to simply not fill open positions. This is evidenced by the fact that there are more than three RNs available for every open position in the state.

It’s these insidious factors that cause nurses to leave the nursing workforce. Fixing these causes and removing restrictions on hiring is the real answer to solving the so-called “nursing shortage.”



13 Responses to “Minnesota Nursing Shortage: Fact or Fiction?”

  1. Kim Oelfje January 5, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

    So with all this in mind..why would the MN board of nursing support the going away with As degree RNs..many of them are excellent and not everyone wants or can afford a 4 r degree..it’s sad.

  2. Jennifer Schmid, MSN, RN, CNL January 6, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    Interesting that some of your classmates got jobs in California! Most of my classmates had to leave California in order to find work as new grads. The one year minimum requirement is definitely an issue, thought I began to understand the other side of it better when I accepted a job where I was one of the few RNs who had paid experience. It was frustrating at times. It’s important to keep in mind that health care is changing, and most new nurses will likely not find work in a hospital but rather in other settings that perhaps don’t pay as well but are not as stressful. I encourage new grads to look for work at summer camps, as school nurses, etc. (Of course, this can be a problem too since some new grad programs required no previous work as an RN.)

  3. kaytheauthor January 10, 2015 at 7:43 pm #

    Wow! This is a very informative article. My best friend will be starting school for LPN soon. I will be sure to let her know. In addition, we will do more research about RN. I was under the impression that there was a shortage of nurses in Minnesota, and that it was a great field.

  4. allisonfindlay January 11, 2015 at 12:21 am #

    I was surprised to see someone posting about a “nursing shortage”…the only people I’ve ever heard say “nursing shortage” are the corporate people who do not want to hire more nurses, and decrease the nurse patient ratio. My nursing students are fully aware it will be tough to get a job when they graduate as they compete against other nurses for few positions.
    Many of the jobs that nurses used to work in years ago are now being filled by nurses aids and techs to save money. dialysis nursing , psych nursing to name a few.
    Luckily we have lots of data in each state that dispel that myth, and the AACN provides national data as well to educate legislators and policymakers so they are knowledgeable about this.
    I recently wrote a letter to our Idaho senators about the nurse faculty shortage, however, and believe we need to support the American Nurses Association and the AACN’s endeavor to educate policymakers about this important issue.
    Thank you for continuing to help dispel the myth about a nursing shortage, we need to make sure nurses are educated about what our real issues are. AACN website has great info, and fact pages with data concerning current nursing issues, great resource! Each local state also has a political action coalition where you can find more FAQ’s on your state.
    Allison Findlay

  5. Michelle Ruesink January 16, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

    The information in this article seems to focus only on facilities. How about home health care? Home health care is becoming increasingly more valued by those in need. Who doesn’t want to remain in their home rather than receiving care in an institution? Home Health Care agencies typically do hire new graduates. I work for one of those companies and would love for new graduates to apply. Please refer them to our website! http://www.accuratehomecare.com

  6. S. Oneill January 27, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

    What a farce. I’ve worked at United as a floor nurse for years and it has excellent staffing – there is nothing to complain about most days. Just like any hospital, it has busy times in census and it is difficult to staff but largely United’s staffing ratio is excellent. It’s the liberal union hard at work trying to justify themselves and therefore print false or misleading representations about the hospital. No – not one hospital is perfect and each one has had it’s difficulties with management but United has some sincere and caring leaders in place. The average salary quote is a lie, and most RN’s do not want to work full time – it’s hard work. Go down to Texas and work then tell me what you’ve got to complain about. The reason why I see nurses incur injuries is because they don’t use the lifting equipment provided to them!! Hello! Is anyone actually evaluating the facts before they write these articles?

    • Carolyn J. April 12, 2015 at 7:08 pm #

      United may staff appropriately as might the facility I work in (sometimes!), however, the REAL purpose of this legislation is for the facilities who DO NOT staff adequately. How would you like it if your Grandma or uncle or child were to end up hospitalized in one of THOSE hospitals? Then you might support this legislation, S. Oneill!

    • Mathew Keller RN JD, Regulatory and Policy Nursing Specialist May 6, 2015 at 8:33 am #

      Hi S. Oneill– yes we did evaluate the facts before writing this article, and each statistic is quoted from state or federal labor statistics. Unfortunately, the average salary quote is not a lie– feel free to click on the hyperlink and check out the statistics for yourself.

  7. Bernadine Engeldorf, RN February 7, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    The impact of hiring “BSN” only is of significant impact and Allina Health’s nurse exec’s have made a decision to implement this hiring practice. We are passing up experienced nurses due to this new policy, definitely is a NEGATIVE impact, Please nurse exec’s do the right thing, change this practice.

  8. Nick February 15, 2015 at 4:14 am #

    As an acute care RN working in Southern CA who will be living in MN in a month this is sad news to hear. I’m one of those highly experienced ADN nurses and I’m a robust male in above average physical shape, 8 years experience in critical care. This obsession with credentials is short sighted and does nothing to increase the quality of patient care. In fact not only does it in many ways bring down patient care it also drives up costs for the American healthcare system that is already on life support. It has probably been the biggest single blunder financially any hospital could do getting rid of LVNs and ADNs. Nursing at the hospital level is still a very task oriented job no matter what tte credential queens of management want you to believe. No other industry that operates in a normal supply and demand market would exchange lower paid personnel for higher paid personnel for the same exact job. Makes zero financial sense. The minute bachelor degree nurses get a year under their belt they split from the bedside. I’m done! Knot to sound arrogant but I’m the exact type of nurse the profession needs and I can’t wait to leave it. Nursing is such a confused profession filled with too many managers making decisions that make zero financial sense and only serve the vested interests of bloated academia and bureaucracy! Patient care and quality will suffer with this over emphasis on credentials. I see it already. Too many young nurses working ICU, ER, acute care with very little knowledge and experience but with plenty of letters after their name. What’s even scarier is the number of NPs making medical decisions that lack the education and training of doctors.

    • Bernadine (Bunny) Engeldorf, RN April 8, 2015 at 7:03 am #

      Of recent late they (Allina Health/ United Hospital) have “temp” removed the BSN requirement because they are having difficulty filling positions. Of course this is what the RN at the bedside told them would happen, hopefully they will continue to hire ADN nurses like Nick and those who are new graduates. Licensure is the entry into the profession and currently ADN and BSN candidates sit for the same licensure exam. Good Luck Nick!

      • kim August 6, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

        Amen … 2 yr 4 yr we all pass the same test to allow us to practice. It’s a shame…


  1. Minnesota hospitals’ income soars | Minnesota Nurses - September 18, 2015

    […] yet another sign that Minnesota Hospitals are using the myth of a Minnesota “nursing shortage” in order to avoid appropriate nurse staffing, the Star […]

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