Work environment hasn't changed; perception has
Brewer suspects that nurses' commitment to their employers has less to do with the employers themselves and more to do with the market for nursing jobs. In other words, in a rough economy where there are plenty of nurses to go around, nurses who are employed may just feel lucky to have a job. Their work environment hasn't changed; their perception of it has.
"They're looking around, and they're saying, ‘you know, I'm ok right now,'" Brewer says. "Possibly because I have no other alternatives right now."
In addition, the recession has prompted many older RNs to delay retirement or to return to nursing. As the economy improves, many of those nurses will retire, creating greater demand for new graduates.
Prepare now the next nursing shortage
"At some point, nurses are going to retire," Brewer tells HealthLeaders, and when they do, there's going to be a need to replace them. "All we can do is watch and try to anticipate these factors."
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week predicts the next nursing shortage will come in 2020, when older nurses retire en masse.
"That's just the nature of the beast," Brewer says. "You have to think ahead to the next shortage."
"Make your place the best place to work," Brewer says. "So when they look around, they're going to stay with you. You want to keep them. You don't want them to jump ship the minute the market heats up."