You don’t have to watch the news for very long to hear news of the ongoing staffing issues that nearly every employment sector has been facing for the last several years. Not only have these shortages led to disruptions of services, but they are, in some instances, causing significant public concern.
In this article, we look at three important career fields that are currently dangerously understaffed.
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Since the start of the pandemic, businesses across the boards have experienced staffing issues. Experts have struggled to find an explanation that can adequately explain the situation. In the beginning, many people changed their careers out of necessity — either because lockdowns impacted their ability to get stable hours, or due to fear of infection.
Then there was the Great Resignation, in which people across the board left their jobs in droves. Even now it’s regularly reported that swimming pools across the country are struggling to staff enough lifeguards to stay open.
Unusual though these situations may be, they don’t adequately reflect the severity of the situation. Staffing shortages at public pools are odd and noteworthy. Staffing shortages within the healthcare system can be disastrous.
The careers that we examine below fall into the latter category. Jobs that society depends on to remain safe and functional.
It’s no secret that the US healthcare system has struggled to staff floor nurses. The why of the situation owes to several factors. For one thing, much has been asked of nurses over the last several years. Nursing is always a difficult job. Long hours, many of which happen overnight, coupled with work that is emotionally, mentally, and physically draining won’t be for everyone, even during normal times.
Covid-19 only heightened the tension. Beginning in March of 2020, nurses not only had to navigate the typical pressures of their work, they had to do so knowing that they might face the risk of infection on the job.
They had more responsibilities. New procedures to learn. The equipment they had to start using. And for the extra effort and risk, their compensation usually remained the same.
If ever there was a recipe for high turnover rates it looks something like the scenario described above. Hospitals have begun to wise up, with some offering very competitive compensation to new hires. Meanwhile, traveling nurse firms are routinely offering RNs 2-3 times their usual compensation to go into areas with particularly high needs and work there.
Competitive salaries may help stave off some of the turnovers. However, for the time being, the situation remains challenging.
Law enforcement is another occupation to experience significant tension in the last several years. Like healthcare workers, police officers must routinely come into close contact with the public, even at the risk of Covid infection.
There has also been a shift in the cultural perception of police officers following the death of George Floyd in 2019. While the overall perception of law enforcement remains primarily favorable, pocket instances of police violence against unarmed citizens have created a degree of tension between police and the general public.
So much tension, in fact, that resignations have risen by 40% since 2019, while retirements have gone up by 25%.
With large numbers of outgoing officers, and a relatively small number of new enrollment counties all across the nation are experiencing significant difficulty staffing their police precincts.
The shortage of counselors is exacerbated by two factors. On the one hand, many mental health care workers are leaving the profession, citing high levels of stress and emotional challenges.
On the other hand, there is also a heightened demand. This owes both to the ongoing destigmatization of mental health care—while once taboo, prioritizing mental health has become increasingly more normalized in recent years—and heightened need.
Since the start of the pandemic, more people than ever before have reported feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed. Mental health services are in high demand, and fewer professionals are there to meet the need.
Unfortunately, this disparity in accessibility versus need may eventually exacerbate the problem. As counselors take on bigger and bigger caseloads, the risk of burnout and further turnover increases.
A Silver Lining?
While Covid-19 is still out there, the pressures of the pandemic have been receding for some time. With life going back to normal, many of the problems that caused staffing shortages in the first place are largely irrelevant.
The shortages are still there. However, with Covid moved to the background, these career fields have the potential to return to normal levels in the not-so-distant future.