Why flexibility is key to solving the nursing shortage crisis


Nurses shared why they’ve been leaving the profession in droves at the PRWeek Healthcare Conference + Awards.

L-R: PRWeek's Steve Barrett and connectRN's Andrea Zellen and Ted Jeanloz.

NEW YORK: As nurses leave the profession in droves over pay and work conditions, leaders must rebuild a safe, flexible and positive environment that will encourage them back into a profession they love, according to executives from nursing platform connectRN.

Speaking at the second-annual PRWeek Healthcare Conference in New York, connectRN CEO Ted Jeanloz said that during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the public called on nurses to save the country — while much of the rest of the population worked from home.

Now many people have retained flexibility via remote or hybrid work or different hours. Yet nurses are still working how they were before the pandemic, Jeanloz said. 

“The prize for having made it through COVID means you have to work harder in the same job for the same pay,” he said.

Founded in 2014, connectRN is a nurse-staffing community that provides clinicians with flexible-scheduling opportunities and resources.

Clinicians work 16-hour shifts and “are forced to work when they don't want to,” said Andrea Zellen, director of clinical services at connectRN and also an emergency room nurse. “We are not given a voice.”  

Therefore it’s no surprise that 100,000 registered nurses left the workforce during the past two years due to stress, burnout and retirement, and another 610,388 reported an intent to leave by 2027, according to a study by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing

For Zellen, it didn’t feel like the pandemic ended until this month, when she and her team got to take their masks off. But it didn’t feel like a celebration.

“I think about when your sports team does amazing, they come back to the city and there are celebrations and duck-boat rides and they get to rest and heal until the next season,” Zellen said. “Healthcare clinicians didn't celebrate or rest.”

She said clinicians don’t even talk to each other about the last few years or the “win” of the pandemic being over. 

“We need to get all clinicians back to a place where they feel supported,” Zellen said. 

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