Happy female physician with arm around colleague outside hospital
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In an effort to help improve job satisfaction and retention rates for nurses, no matter where they work, a collaboration between the AARP and the DAISY Foundation aims to recognize the value of nurses.

During a virtual discussion Tuesday on nursing workforce shortages, experts estimated that 100,000 registered nurses left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic due to stress, burnout or retirements. Another 600,000 nurses said they intend to leave the workforce by 2027.

According to last year’s Long-Term Services & Supports State Scorecard from the AARP, “glaring” trends emerged, with long-term care leading the way in worker burnout, according to Susan Reinhard, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior vice president and director of the AARP Public Policy Institute. Approximately 15% of nurses in assisted living are RNs, according to the National Center for Assisted Living, citing government data sources.

The nation’s aging population as well as an increasing number of older adults living with chronic conditions mean that a shortage of more than 200,000 nurses is projected to occur in the next few years. 

Recently released findings of the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses noted that the pandemic exacerbated existing challenges within the nursing profession and that projected shortages would persist until 2036.

A roundtable hosted by the US Health Resources and Services Administration on Monday emphasized the urgent need to invest in the nursing workforce and explore innovative training approaches to expand and diversify the nursing pipeline. 

“COVID changed the nursing profession forever,” Reinhard said. “It’s time for a recalibration.”

According to an AARP survey of adults aged 50 or more years, 99% consider nurses very important to the health and well-being of the nation, and 97% agree that the country’s nursing shortage is at a critical level. In that vein, 96% said they think that more should be done to retain nurses, and 98% said they think that more should be done to recognize the value of nurses. 

Encouraging retired nurses to return to the workforce to alleviate shortages was supported by 75% of respondents. 

Showing gratitude

Saying it was clear that more needs to be done to support nurses, the AARP said that its collaboration with the DAISY Foundation is aimed at inspiring nurses to keep serving, enticing retired nurses back into the field to alleviate shortages and attracting new nurses to the profession.

The Gratitude for Nurses effort hopes to encourage more people to express thankfulness to both RNs and licensed practical nurses through nominations for the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. Nineteen percent of nursing working in assisted living are LPNs or vocational nurses.

“We know there isn’t a magic bullet to what we can do, but there are steps we can take now,” Reinhard said. Those steps, she added, include increasing pay, diversifying the nursing workforce and expanding the ability of nurse aides, community healthcare workers and other healthcare professionals to take on aspects of care to relieve some of the demand from RNs. Sixty-six percent of caregivers in assisted living are aides.

DAISY Foundation CEO Deborah Zimmermann, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, said that meaningful recognition nurtures a culture of compassion and is linked to nurse retention, teamwork and satisfaction. 

“Research has found that feedback from patients and families reinforces to nurses their work is important,” Zimmermann said. “Doing meaningful work and having that recognized is what nurses said will influence them actually staying in their positions.”

The mission of the foundation, she said, is to recognize nurses wherever they practice, including in long-term care, home healthcare and professional associations that serve nurses in every specialty. 

“What we know is the health and wellness of the nation depends on strong, robust nursing in every setting nurses practice,” Zimmermann said.