McKinsey & Company, the well-known management consulting and advisory firm, published a new report titled “Assessing the impact of COVID-19 on the nursing workforce” in May. The report, written by Gretchen Berlin, Meredith Lapointe, Mhoire Murphy, and Joanna Wexler, predicts the lingering impacts of COVID-19 on the nursing workforce over the next few years, as well as identifies ways to address the nursing shortage.

COVID-19 completely disrupted the U.S. health care sector. Prior to 2020, there was a steady decrease in the overall nursing profession due to an aging population. After COVID-19 hit, the nursing shortage intensified. Now that the world is slowly returning to normal, we are finding that the nursing workforce still has a long way to go to recover. The authors of the report note there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the workforce. The report does, however, offer ideas to help the depleting workforce.  

The first potential opportunity is to make the nursing profession more attractive. One way of doing so is to create a visible and appealing pathway for a nursing career for high school and young professionals entering the workforce. Educational institutions could generate these partnerships between their students and nurses.

Secondly, the McKinsey report suggests increasing the number of academic and clinical resources and institutions. There is a deficiency of spots in nursing schools, nursing educators, clinical rotation spots, and mentors for the next generation, causing a damaging ripple effect for the younger generation. The authors suggest creating incentives and institutional rearrangements to make this happen.

Thirdly, the authors argue for reimagining clinical education. This can include a variety of approaches such as academic institutions collaborating with healthcare providers to connect candidates with employers, creating short-term programs to jump-start interest, and creating virtual and simulation-based learning activities.

Lastly, the report’s authors suggest that to improve nursing retention, the health care sector must move toward a more customer-centric model, which is mutually beneficial for both the provider and the patient. Without immediate action, the health care sector is at great risk. Facilities could experience a shortage of between 200,000 and 450,000 nurses by 2025. It is up to health care stakeholders across the nation to collaborate to revive the profession for future generations.