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Nursing Shortage as a National Healthcare Issue

Currently, the problem of the lack of nurses affects all countries of the world. The nursing staff is the foundation of any healthcare system and organization. However, there is still no universal solution for the health care systems of increasing the number of these specialists. This problem leads to deterioration in the quality of medical care, an increase in morbidity and mortality, a high level of medical errors, burnout of medical personnel, and low prestige of the profession. The shortage of nurses is widespread in the United States, but it affects different medical institutions differently. Rural hospitals, as well as primary health care facilities, are affected the most.

In recent years, according to the International Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, there are four nurses per doctor in the United States (Scheffler & Arnold, 2019). A nurse is positioned as a doctor’s partner; this medical worker is constantly in contact with the patients, tries to meet all their needs, responds promptly to the deterioration of physiological and psychological well-being, and builds relationships with relatives of patients. It is the nurse who collects and analyzes all the information about the patient’s condition and who can advise the doctors in detail about whom they treat.

Nurse shortage refers to a situation where the demand for professional nurses, such as registered nurses, exceeds the supply locally, nationally, or globally. This situation is observed in most of the countries across the globe. The shortage of nurses is not necessarily related to the shortage of qualified professionals. In some cases, the perceived lack of services comes at the same time as an increase in the number of students entering nursing schools (Kelly & Porr, 2018). Potential factors include a lack of adequate staffing ratios in hospitals and other health facilities, a lack of employment programs for newly trained nurses, and inadequate incentives to retain workers. The World Health Organization estimates a shortage of nearly 4.3 million nurses, doctors, and other health workforce resources worldwide (Turner, 2018). Reportedly, the result of decades of underinvestment in education, training, wages, the work environment, and the management of health workers caused this problem.

Overall, since nurses make up the largest group of health care providers in the United States, this shortage of staff puts many hospitals, colleges, and other organizations at risk of a staffing crisis (Marć et al., 2019). This decline extends to nursing teachers, who are also now retiring en masse. Moreover, some nurses starting to work are determined that the profession does not meet their expectations. Others may work for a while, experience burnout, and leave the profession. The shortage of personnel is also compounded by the fact that nurses are still mostly women and many of them, after a while, can choose a family rather than a career.

In the report “A Universal Truth: No health without a workforce,” several main reasons for the personnel shortage of health care workers have been identified: aging of health care workers and their retirement, the transition of medical workers to higher-paid jobs, the lack of specialists coming to the vacant places (Turner, 2018). Other reasons include the insufficient number of young people who want to become or have already become a doctor, the growing global population at risk from non-communicable diseases, and the internal and international migration of health workers.

As a solution to the health workforce shortage, it is considered necessary to strengthen political and technical leadership in countries to support efforts to develop human resources in the long term and collect reliable data and strengthen human resources for health databases. Maximizing mid-level workers’ roles can help improve the availability and acceptability of first-line health services and retain health workers in countries with the most severe shortages and a more balanced geographical distribution of health workers (Drennan & Ross, 2019). It is noted that the provision of mechanisms that provide for the rights and responsibilities of health workers in the development and implementation of policies and strategies to achieve universal health coverage is essential in addressing the shortage of nurses.

The study by Vohra et al. (2020) made a significant contribution to solving the most pressing problems in the U.S. health system. The paper considers the shortage of nurses in rural areas as one of the most urgent problems requiring immediate solutions (Vohra et al., 2020). The article describes the state of rural health policy and the directions that can be used as a national model of positive changes. Proposed solutions include increased funding, initiatives to reimburse nurses working in rural areas, and funding for nursing schools. This work contributes to the development of health care not only for the urban population but also for the rural population.

One of the articles studied examines a strategy that is currently widely discussed among practitioners, administrators, and policymakers. Williamson et al. (2020) see an increase in the number of nursing students as a solution to the global nurse shortage problem. The researchers noted that there was no statistically significant association between the increase in student enrollment and medical errors or adverse events in patients. At the same time, it was noted that the increase in the capabilities of nursing students has a positive impact on patient safety.

Different approaches can be used to address the lack of nurses in the health system, focusing on organizational implications. Therefore, workforce planning and development have a significant role to play in solving this problem. Innovative approaches to workforce planning and development can ensure high-quality medical care (Marć et al., 2019). Formal and on-the-job training of nurses is seen as another effective use strategy (Gerardi et al., 2018; Haryanto, 2019). It is argued that additional investment in the medical sector is crucial to attracting a skilled workforce. Empowering nurse practitioners is also a benefit that leads to lower nurse turnover and increases job satisfaction. However, it is worth noting that these strategies’ positive effect is noticeable, but it is also worth paying attention to the unfavorable outcome since there may be dissatisfaction among other medical personnel.

In recent years, the shortage of medical personnel, especially nurses, has become one of the most acute problems globally. Nurses make up more than half of all health care workers in the world and provide vital services at all levels of the health system. To attract new young professionals and retain the positions of already working ones, it is necessary to apply various special strategies. If the authorities aim to have strong health services, they should invest in nurses, train and educate them in accordance with international standards, and provide them with appropriate equipment and resources.


Drennan, V. M., & Ross, F. (2019). Global nurse shortages: The facts, the impact and action for change. British Medical Bulletin, 130(1), 25-37. Web.

Haryanto, M. (2019). Nursing shortage: Myth or fact? Orthopaedic Nursing, 38(1), 1-2.

Kelly, P., & Porr, C. (2018). Ethical nursing care versus cost containment: Considerations to enhance RN practice. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 23(1).

Marć, M., Bartosiewicz, A., Burzyńska, J., Chmiel, Z., & Januszewicz, P. (2019). A nursing shortage-a prospect of global and local policies. International Nursing Review, 66(1), 9-16. Web.

Scheffler, R. M. & Arnold, D. R. (2019). Projecting shortages and surpluses of doctors and nurses in the OECD: What looms ahead. Health Economics, Policy and Law, 14(2), 274-290. Web.

Turner, P. (2018). No health service without a health workforce. In Talent management in healthcare (pp. 1-13). Palgrave Macmillan.

Vohra, S., Pointer, C., Fogleman, A., Albers, T., Patel, A., & Weeks, E. (2020). Designing policy solutions to build a healthier rural America. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 48(3), 491-505. Web.

Williamson, G. R., Kane, A., & Bunce, J. (2020). Student nurses, increasing placement capacity and patient safety. A retrospective cohort study. Nurse Education in Practice, 48, 1-5. Web.

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