Providers Need to Look Beyond State Borders to Find Workforce Surpluses

As skilled nursing and other long-term care providers continue to grapple with a persistent workforce shortage, one solution could lie in strategic recruitment outside of an operator’s normal footprint.

While macro-level trends show a substantial nurse and health care support worker shortage that will only get worse as the population ages, not all markets are created equal, according to a new analysis from advisory firm Mercer.

“In fact, contrary to popular belief, it appears that many states are likely to have a projected surplus of registered nurses (RNs) through 2025,” the firm noted in a newly released report on the U.S. health care workforce.


One health care system that worked with Mercer, for instance, identified a surplus of nurses in the upstate New York region, and thus focused its marketing and recruitment plans in that area.

The general idea is to identify areas where population shifts have left an oversupply of young talent and an undersupply of older folks in need of care. Amid a general population exodus from Illinois and the Chicago metropolitan area, the region’s schools continue to pump out qualified graduates of health care programs, according to Mercer — leading to a bumper crop of candidates without the demand for their services.

The reverse situation is occurring in Texas, where the state’s education system hasn’t kept pace with the influx of Americans who have moved there in recent years.


“So while a state like Texas might be short nearly 27,000 RNs, Illinois is likely to have a surplus of 27,000 over in the same period,” Mercer’s analysis found.

The company’s research also found that even within states, different metropolitan areas could be prime targets for recruitment efforts. While the Anaheim area in California has found itself short 3,600 nursing assistants, there are 1,700 too many in the Riverside-San Bernadino metro, according to Mercer.

“That level of state-borderline poaching may not even be necessary. Taking a closer look at the data at a county level reveals a more nuanced view of staffing risks and opportunities that employees should consider,” Mercer noted.

That said, the overall picture for providers remains gloomy. Providers will find themselves short 95,000 nursing assistants by 2025, according to the company’s projections, with a 29,400-person shortage of nurse practitioners — even as half of all new jobs created through 2026 will come in the health care field.

Written by Alex Spanko