Where have all the Nurse Leaders Gone?


The Experience Gap

COVID drove several widespread changes for nursing. Millennial nurses largely opted to seek travel nurse positions, as they were lucrative and in high demand. Often unencumbered by familial obligations, this generation of nurses was perfectly suited for the contract positions that were needed to get through the pandemic. This leaves hoards of nurses with numerous contract positions on their resumes, with no leadership experiences to boast.

In a recent poll of hospital executives by Avant Healthcare Professionals, 90% of more than 100 respondents reported using travel nurses to help with an influx of COVID-19 patients in 2020, compared with less than 60% in 2019.” [1]

Burnout is Extreme

“The main risk factors that increased nurses' burnout were the following: younger age, decreased social support, low family and colleague’s readiness to cope with COVID-19 outbreak, increased perceived threat of Covid-19, longer working time in quarantine areas, working in a high-risk environment, working in hospitals with inadequate and insufficient material and human resources, increased workload and lower level of specialized training regarding COVID-19.” [2]

For new and seasoned nurses alike, burnout in the wake of a global pandemic is extreme. From the demanding hours to the trauma that goes along with being a healthcare provider in a pandemic, it's no surprise that nurses are feeling burned out. This is most pronounced in the emergency department, CCU/ICU, and the OR. Due to the tremendous and widespread burnout, career growth is not an area of focus for many nurses and nurse leaders.

Early Retirement

Baby Boomer nurse leaders and seasoned nurses alike have seen 4-5 pandemics (HIV/AIDS, SARS, H1N1, Ebola, COVID-19). Many of these dedicated professionals did not want to leave their organizations high and dry during a devastating global pandemic, as nurses in general are compassionate in nature. Now that we are starting to enter a recovery phase from COVID, many nurses and nurse leader candidates are hanging up their stethoscopes and settling into retirement or seeking to transition out of the acute care setting.  Follow several stories here.

Though the labor market is producing an adequate number of new nurses, the key issue is finding prospective nurses with the skillset to move into a leadership role and being able to identify not just rockstar nurse leaders who fit with your organization culturally, but also vetting out those emerging nurse leaders. If you are struggling to find the right nurse leader to move your organization forward, please contact us today. We have helped dozens of hospitals & healthcare systems find several nurses in the last 30 days including CNO, System CNO, Director of Child and Adolescent Nursing, Director of Nursing in the ED, Nurse Planner and Director of OR.


  1. https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2021/04/28/travel-nurses-staffing-industry-pushed-to-the-limits-by-covid/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33764561/