Nursing Staff Shortage Problem and How to Fix It


Nursing professionals are one of the top career and in-demand job employment in many riches countries like USA, United Kingdom, Australia, and more. Many colleges and universities of different countries offered best formulated nursing education for many students. They provide extensive training to strain the qualified nursing student to have the greater chance of passing the different board exams set by the State. They are competing on the number of enrollees to meet the demands needed by these countries.

Yet, nursing staff shortage is projected to increase by 2020. The demands for the healthcare workforce are increasing while the number of nurses joining the workforce is decreasing. Studies show that many elements thwart the enthusiasm of many registered nurses to work on their line of education. Also, these professionals who are on the workforce are reaching the age limit for a healthcare. It is also determined by the increasing number of babies and elderly and the simultaneous retirement of the nurses in the workforce.

The 2008 Nurse Workforce Survey shows that 85% of registered nurses are working on the field of nursing while the other 15% do not join the workforce. Most of them prefer to work in the hospitals, while some followed by home health care, and fewer choose the ambulatory case. With the great number of young and newly registered nurses, the survey shows that there is not enough number to replace the older nurses who will be retiring on the next few years. 90% consist of the women while the remaining are the men. However, women work fewer hours than men. Also, the ratio of the nurses per 100 hospital beds is much lower; hence, the needs to recruitment for more nurses are increasing.

Significance of the Study

The nursing staff shortage issue needs to be resolved. The growing demands needs by the elders, retirees, babies, and patients are increasing. Currently, almost hundred thousand are needed for the vacant position in long-term care in USA. Some of the companies resulted to outsource the nurses from different countries. If the nursing staff shortage continues, the companies will be accruing expenses for long-term facilities needed for recruitment and training of new hired nurses.

It was estimated to cost $4 billion a year. Also, the quality of service is reduced because there are many nurses who are inefficient and inexperienced but companies need to accept to meet the increasing needs of the staff. It sacrifices the quality of service that company can provide to its patients. Furthermore, hospitals and other health care companies need to refuse and limit the admittance of patients who has serious wounds, patients on ventilators and feeding tubes and others who needs a lot of serious nursing attention.

However, the nursing shortage is not just driven by the misdistribution and lack of supply of human resources, it is all about the way the leaders lead the group. Inefficient leaders made the nursing staff shortage worst. Effective leadership can make changes in the system. It can change the way the working nurses see their environment. This study will show what the real situation of the working nurses is and how it can be resolve with the proposed solutions to the problems.

On the part of the new nurses, the situations become very challenging for them. Changes are the most crucial part that affects the service provided by them. In long-term, patients would want to transfer to their own home with the service of a nurse. This will take the new nurses far from the health care unit. Furthermore, the new nurses preferred to work in a comfortable environment.

Government and health care companies try to resolve the issue. Nursing programs are evaluated from time to time to meet the desired outcome for the aspiring nurses. Working environment is being improved and the salary and compensation packages are being increased as well. However, if the problem is not yet resolved, there would still be the continued unbalanced nurse-to-patient ratios, mandatory overtime, emergency-room overcrowding, discontinued patient-care programs, reduced service hours, delayed discharges and canceled surgeries. The continued set up like this in hospitals and other health care services will result to more complex problems.

Forces Influencing the Issue

With the growing number of nursing students, still the issue of the nursing staff shortage cannot be resolved. A nursing student needs to pass series of board exams in order to be licensed and be qualified on the required nurses’ applicant proclaimed by most companies. These companies tried to accept only those efficient nurses to care for their patients.

However, in the studies shown, some registered nurses do not join the workforce. A thorough analysis of this study shows the factors that influence the nursing shortage issue.

Social Forces

A health care worker such as a nurse and nursing aide provides service to the patients. They need to interact and be personally connected with their patients. However, being a nurse is not an easy job. One needs a lot of patience especially to those who are irate, and ill-tempered patients. They need to be respected the way they respected their patients. Moreover, the working environment of the nurses must be safe and almost out of hazard. The distinct capability and knowledge of the nurse between the public think what they should do is allegedly the result of distinction of skilled nurses.

Still, there are many healthcare decision makers who are not knowledgeable about the value of the nurse’s capability and importance. With the growing shortage, they tend to add more workloads on the part of nurses. However, nurses are not machine, they get tired and exhausted with their work also. Hence, some of them transfer to other companies and leave their careers. Shortage in staffing and restructuring in nursing forces many nurses to change their line of careers.

Legal/Political forces

Not only the social issues affect the shortage of nurses, but also the legal forces affect the preference of the nurses to join the field. The International Nursing Law stated the regulations and responsibilities by the health caregiver. Strict implementations for the patients are the things focused on by media press and health care companies. However, there is a failure on the policy implementation the provisions on the protections of nurses.

Neglecting to address the issues faced by nurses between their patients and patient’s family can cause mainly the shortage issue. Moreover, laws existing to protect and develop the nursing profession are another thing the lawmakers and health care company failed to lookout. The Health Act and the Medical Act and the other laws for the nurses and patients are sometimes having many discrepancies that might misinterpret by the nursing practitioner.

Economic Forces

While the outsourcing of nurses from the different countries became the way of resolving the shortage issue by different health care companies in different places, but it causes more expenses that it reaches billion dollars annually. What’s more, the global crisis affected almost all countries in the world even those highly industrialized countries. Low economic conditions became the hindrances faced by many potential investors and companies.

Recessions as well are experienced by many companies that resulted to layoffs of employees and closing of the business establishments. Inflation, which defines by the increase of prices of goods and other commodities, affects greatly that individual person including patients who cannot afford the service of the nurse. The salary and compensation of the nurses are reduced and the facilities for healthcare companies are reduced in order to survive the recession.

Literature Review

Different studies have been conducted to forecasts the nursing staff shortage on different locations and how it can be resolved as well. Different views, reports and surveys supported these studies; hence, the prediction on the outcome of shortage is concluded. This study also affects the public opinions regarding this topic.

According to Buerhaus (2008), there must be an extensive discussion between the employers, the educators, and the law makers to tackle the issues faced by the registered nurses. Moreover, they should focus more on providing actions on policies and strengthen the registered nurses workforce. Neglecting the issues will result to greater problems that a Stat will face. However, his study follows the pattern of the past survey. Changes in economic conditions must be accounted also.

On the study made by Heinrich (2001), the nursing shortage is measured per capita and unemployment rate and depending on the locality of health care companies. Recent studies are experiencing difficulty in recruiting trainees for nursing positions.

The current RN workforce is aging and there are fewer new nurses to replace the retiring RNs. Also the following situations discourage many registered nurses to join the workforce: unhappiness on staffing levels, heavy workloads, increased use of overtime, lack of sufficient support staff, and adequate wages. Improvements on the workplace may reduce the leasing of nurses and may encourage younger nurses to join the profession. She stated that national data are inadequate to prove the existence of the shortage. Many factors are affecting the nursing staff shortage issue.

According to Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the continued crisis on nursing staff shortage lead to patients’ danger. They examined many 1609 hospitals on the effects of shortage on nursing. Moreover, the results show that the low number of nursing on the ratio of patients shows that the patients are highly susceptible to death. The study recommends that enhancement on workplace and is respectful on nursing staff may reduce the growing numbers of the shortage issue.

According to the study of Kimball and O’Neil (2002), there are many factors that increase the growth of the nursing staff shortage. They stated that ranges of activities are currently formulated by different organization. Also, they recommend advancement and professionalization of the profession to encourage other qualified registered nurses to enter the health care workforce.

Propositions/ Position

Leading the whole nursing workforce is not an easy task. The leaders must try all the necessary solutions to halt the growing issue on the nursing staff shortage.

With regards to the issue of the aging workforce, there must be a change on their working conditions. The company must strive to minimize the additional workload and overtime. Work must be in accordance with their capabilities. Nurse needs to carry and move their patients, thus, the older nurses must reduce their workloads. Also, leaders must find ways to improve and increase the reimbursement and salary of the experienced nurses. This is to compensate their dedication to the work as well.

Furthermore, they should develop health care management to avoid physical injuries to the older nurses. Moreover, they should make revisions on the workloads of the older nurses by increasing their expertise but decreasing the burdens of their works.

For the declining enrollment, the school, colleges, and universities must target the young students in elementary and high school. As early as possible, they should encourage these youngsters to join the nursing professions. Also, they should target nontraditional people like males and minorities. They should create diverse tracks for the entry level nurses. They should develop more effective methods to help bring the non-practicing nurses to join the workforce and foreign nurses to work as well. There must be enough facilities to teach the students well, and provide that there are career opportunities and lifelong learning opportunities for nurses.

The changing work climate for the nurses can increase the possibility of resigning the profession. However, it can be reduced by increasing the practice of care delivery rather that managing the whole system. Company must provide other opportunities to learn and have the chance to expertise the other areas of care. Company must provide new approaches for relieving nurses in times of high patient care demands. Also, the workloads must be assigned to nurses that are reasonable and achievable. Avoid the use of mandatory overtime because it will only decrease the quality of health service that a nurse can be capable to give. Most of all, leaders must develop new ways to accommodate the lifestyle of the new graduates.

The poor image of nursing can discourage many newly registered nurses to work on their profession. Some of them may result to working on other fields. Yet, health care companies can reduce this case by changing and developing the image of nursing among the young ones like elementary and high school students. Web-based career information can increase and boost the confidence of many nurses. Schools management may include the practicing of nursing to different schools and community activities as well. Schools also must reform the educational mechanisms to empower the nurses in the workplace.

Schools management, healthcare companies, and nurses’ organization must lobby with the congress to pass legislation that promotes the nursing profession. They can propose to increase compensations and other benefits for the nurses.


The growing demands of the needs by the patients to health care workers are increasing while the supplies of these workers are insufficient. With the continuing issue faced by different countries, the patients will suffer more pain and if not well taken care of, may result to death. As this profession became in demand too many countries, colleges and universities in different places produced many registered nurses. However, the real problem on the nursing shortage issue is caused mainly by the preferences of the registered nurses to work in their field of study.

There are many factors that affect the shortage of the nursing staff. Some are the following: the working environment, the hazard of the location on the part of the private nurses, the attitude problems of the patients and their families, the short falling and restructuring of work, work overload and mandatory overtime, and lack of support staff.

Leaders of different health care companies, schools, colleges, and nurses associations can do great things to reduce the growing numbers of nursing staff shortages. They can formulate solutions to the nurses by focusing on their issues regarding the growing numbers of aging nurses, change in work climate, decreasing of enrollees, and the poor image of nurses. They must address these issues as soon as possible to reduce the issues.

Health care companies, schools, nurses associations, and the government officials must be united in solving the issues. By providing changes on the working environment of nurses, the issue can be resolved. Companies need to be sensitive and care for the well being of their nurses. Changes in the traditional works of the nurses can contribute to the decrease of the nursing staff shortage and encourage many young ones to join the nursing profession.


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