Short Staffing of Nurses












Short Staffing of Nurses

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Short Staffing of Nurses

Nurses play an intricate role in the medical field in that they are responsible for the continued assessment of a patient’s health status, and at the same time examining the patient’s response to the prescribed treatment. In addition, nurses also ensure that the patient’s needs that are, cognitive, physical, and emotional are fulfilled. In the United States, registered nurses make up the largest group of medical practitioners (Keenan, 2003). One issue that is not only affecting the nursing practice in the United States, but across the world, is short staffing of nurses in health care institutions, which means a decrease in the number of nurses in these health care center. An example of a negative consequences associated with the issue of short staffing of nurses is increase in patient mortality, and various solutions can be provided to ensure that the quality of care is not compromised further (Janiszewski Goodin, 2003),

To ensure patient safety and well-being, health care centers ought to employ an adequate number of nurses. Some of the major reasons being short staffing of nurses is a decrease in the overall budget allocated by the United States government for its health care programs, as well as increased demand for health care services (Keenan, 2003). It has also been noted that other career options are behind the decreased number of nurses in health care centers, as there are more lucrative career options for individuals. Short staffing of nurses may lead to a number of negative consequences, for example, increased rates of patient mortality and complexities in the delivery of health care. (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2003). From research carried out, in 2002, the shortage of registered nurses in the United States was around 125,000, and it is projected to rise to over 400,000 by 2020 (Aiken, Clarke, Sloane, Sochalski & Silber, 2002). In a study by University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, May, Bazzoli and Gerland (2006), observed the high mortality rates that can result from the inadequacy of nurse services within the hospital operation. There is the idea that if the nurses in a healthcare facility are few, then the present ones are overworked. The effect is spread to other staff like the physicians where for example when in an operation with few nurses they may have a lot to do which can result to errors. Janiszewski Goodin (2003), reported on a research that has found four main factors contributing to the nursing shortage in the USA. These factors are the declining enrollment in nursing schools, poor public image of nursing, the aging RN workforce population and the changing work climate.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2003) noted the resultant effect of shortage observing that few nurses in a big healthcare facility are overworked which results to burning out or losing their morale in carrying out their duties of care. High levels of this overworking result into frustration making many of the nurses quit working. This makes the situation more pathetic: a hopeless situation where the facility needs nurses but the available ones are quitting. From these facts, it is clear that a hospital needs adequate nurses to have them for long and be able to give quality care has not been achieved satisfactorily yet.

Various strategies out that may provide solutions to the problem of short staffing of nurses would be to increase the number of individuals enrolled in nursing programs in educational institutions and enactment of comprehensive health care policies that cater for the needs of nurses. For the government of the United States to increase the number of individuals that enroll in nursing programs, it ought to increase the funding for said programs (Institute of Medicine & Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2011). At the same time, the government should also cater for the needs of already registered nurses through the increase of their wages, and this may discourage individuals from seeking other career options. In some nations, the government has resorted to hiring foreign nurses as well, as an immediate strategy to resolving the issue of short staffing, and the United States government have been using such options as well.

Positive Social Change

It is evident that the issue of short staffing of nurses has a direct influence on the quality of care that patients receive. The ramifications of short staffing of nurses, therefore, cannot be ignored, for example, short staffing of nurses is related to increase in drug administration errors and patient’s length of stay in hospitals (Aiken et al., 2002). The government of the United States has the potential of bringing change to the situation through policy reforms, specifically, those dealing with wages registered nurses receive, as well as funding for nursing programs in higher educational institutions. Private organizations can also help in rectifying the situation, by providing the funding needed for nursing recruitment programs, for example, scholarships and outreach programs to high school students.













Aiken, L. H., Clarke, S. P., Sloane, D. M., Sochalski, J., & Silber, J. H. (2002). Hospital nurse staffing and patient mortality, nurse burnout, and job dissatisfaction. Jama288(16), 1987-1993. doi:10.1001/jama.288.16.1987

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2003. Nursing Shortage Facts Sheet.

Cooper, K., & Gosnell, K. (2015). Foundations and adult health nursing.

Institute of Medicine (U.S.)., & Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2011). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press.

Janiszewski Goodin, H. (2003). The nursing shortage in the United States of America: an integrative review of the literature. Journal of advanced nursing43(4), 335-343.

Keenan, P. (2003). The nursing workforce shortage: causes, consequences, proposed solutions. Issue Brief (Commonwealth Fund), (619), 1-8.

May, J. H., Bazzoli, G. J., & Gerland, A. M. (2006). Hospitals’ responses to nurse staffing shortages. Health Affairs25(4), W316-W323.

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