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Trends in nurse staffing


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By Jennifer Thew, RN

Hospitals are largely relying on new graduate registered nurses to fill open nursing positions finds a new survey by Avant Healthcare Professionals, a staffing agency specializing in internationally educated RNs, physical therapists, and occupational therapists.

To assess national trends in nurse staffing, Avant surveyed 171 chief executive officers, chief nursing officers, and human resource executives from multiple healthcare settings including critical access hospitals, state facilities, and healthcare large systems and compared those responses to its 2018 survey.

Among the findings from the Avant Healthcare Professionals’ 2019 Trends in Nurse Staffing Study:

  • 50% of hospitals report having between 10 and 74 nurse job openings to fill
  • 26% of hospitals are looking to fill between 1 and 10 nursing positions
  • 61% of organizations have anticipated nurse retirements during 2019
  • 78% of respondents say they will rely on new graduate RNs to fill open positions


Additional ways respondents plan to fill open positions are:

  • Internal recruitment efforts (78%)
  • External ads (66%)
  • Sign-on bonuses (36%)
  • Staffing agencies (34%)
  • Improving pay packages (28%)


It appears more healthcare executives are open to recruitment through staffing agencies than in the past. The survey results showed an 8% increase in hospitals that will rely on staffing agencies to recruit nurses in 2019 as compared to 2018.

The use of travel nurses also increased by 7% in 2019, and 13% of the hospitals surveyed are using more than 25 travel nurses this year to fill openings.

Respondents say the nursing specialties with the highest needs are:

  • Med-Surg (68%)
  • Emergency department (56%)
  • Intensive care unit (39%)
  • Operating room (37%)
  • Labor and delivery (26%)
  • Other (24%) 
  • Pediatrics (10%)


Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.