Nursing Shortage Essay Essay

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Globally, a nursing shortage is impeding the advancement of healthcare systems around the world. The nursing shortage refers to any situation in which the labor market cannot keep up with patient demands. Causes of the nursing shortage include poor working conditions leading to high turnover rates, insufficient nursing education programs, and lack of incentives for nurses to work in areas of critical concern. Effects of the nursing shortage include further staff shortages due to high stress environments and poor patient care—including higher rates of mortality and morbidity. Nursing shortages have affected almost every region of the world, and may become worse unless concerted efforts are made to remedy the problem. 


Even the most advanced healthcare systems in the world are short on nursing staff. As a result, existing nurses are working longer hours under high duress, and are more prone to making errors or experiencing workplace violence and abuse. Patients are dying from preventable causes or becoming ill due to inefficient nursing care. If nothing is done soon to mitigate the nursing shortage, the entire globe could witness major crises in healthcare delivery. 

Nurses have recently made inroads to improve the role and status of the profession, but much more needs to be done. The burgeoning patient population implies ever-increasing demand for qualified nursing staff, but there is no real plan in place anywhere to ensure that enough nurses will be staffed at the healthcare institutions or in the communities in which they are needed most. Nursing education programs at the level of higher education are overburdened, and even qualified students eager to participate in the healthcare professions are turned down daily due to lack of teaching faculty. The nursing shortage has reached a critical point, requiring effective policy intervention.

What is a Nursing Shortage?

A nursing shortage refers to an insufficient number of nursing professionals. Therefore, a nursing shortage is a staff shortage. Nursing is an incredibly broad and diverse field, encompassing a wide range of specializations within clinical practice. In addition to clinical practice, nurses can work in education to teach the future generation of nursing professionals. A nursing shortage may refer to any specific situation in which there are fewer nurses than are required to meet current or projected patient demands.

Nursing shortages generally occur in specific geographic regions. Areas that are especially vulnerable to nursing shortages include those in which the patient population is growing while the nursing staff is shrinking. Currently, nursing shortages have become chronic issues around the world but do affect some areas more than others.

As demand for healthcare services rise, there will be a corresponding need for more nursing staff. Ironically, increases in quality of care worldwide have contributed to the nursing shortage. Better healthcare services mean increased longevity, which in turn leads to increasing demands for nurses throughout the course of a patient’s lifetime. Similarly, the more wealth accumulated worldwide, the higher the demand for healthcare services will be among populations who even just a generation ago could not access or afford healthcare services.

Why is There a Nursing Shortage?

The simplest way of describing the nursing shortage is in terms of basic economics: supply and demand. Currently, the demand for nurses far outweighs the supply of nurses in the labor pool. In spite of the fact that many nurses are willing to relocate for work, there are still chronic nursing shortages in some areas because the number of nurses entering the profession simply cannot keep pace with the rising population and the increased demands for healthcare services.

In the United States and other wealthy nations, the population has been aging rapidly. The rapidly aging population has further increased the demand for nurses but nursing schools cannot keep pace with this demand. Nursing education is therefore a primary reason why there is a nursing shortage. Even though the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and other countries have quality nursing education programs, there are only so many schools with only so many teaching faculty in those schools.

Until nursing education programs expand exponentially, it is likely that the nursing shortage will continue. After all, the population continues to grow and also to age. With greater numbers of seniors seeking treatment for both acute and chronic conditions, the demand for nurses is likely to keep increasing.

Globalization also leads to increasing demands for nurses worldwide. Unfortunately, though, nurses from developing countries have strong financial incentives to move from their home countries to nations in which they will receive higher pay and greater opportunities for career advancement. To fill nursing staff shortages in developed nations means taking away from the labor pool in developing countries. 

The nature of healthcare service delivery has also been changing, leading…

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…states, demand far outweighs supply. Some states are not hit as bad by the nursing shortage. For example, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia have been able to meet the demand for nurses (“The States with the Largest Nursing Shortages,” n.d.). Statistics of turnover rates in the nursing profession are also surprising but vary according to state: anywhere between 8.8 % to 37.0% in the United States (Haddad & Toney-Butler, 2019).

How to Prevent a Nursing Shortage

Preventing a nursing shortage and the problems associated with it starts with promoting nursing more actively as a viable career path, and making it more possible for people around the world to enter the profession. Therefore, it would help if more young people were exposed to the potential opportunities in nursing when they are still in grade school. Nursing should be presented to children as a career that is distinct from others in the healthcare field. Another way to prevent a nursing shortage is to expand and improve upon current nursing education programs.

To prevent a nursing shortage, healthcare institutions need to change their organizational culture. Menial tasks need to be automated, liberating nurses to do what they were trained to do, which is to help patients or to improve the caliber of healthcare through leadership and public policy. Nurses need to be more empowered and to receive remuneration commensurate with their experience and their levels of expertise.

Finally, graduates of nursing programs around the world need greater incentives to work in places where nurses are needed the most. Incentivizing nurses to move to regions with the most pressing shortages could prove difficult but will ultimately promote the positive public health and patient satisfaction outcomes all healthcare workers want.


If it is not addressed immediately, the global nursing shortage could cause major humanitarian and public health crises. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and disease outbreaks all require massive numbers of qualified healthcare professionals. Nurses work on the front lines to help people. Therefore, eliminating the nursing shortage is a pressing public policy issue.

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Allen, L. (2008). The nursing shortage continues as faculty shortage grows. Nursing Economics 26(1): 35-40.

Haddad, L.M. & Toney-Butler, T.J. (2019). Nursing shortage. StatPearls.

Laschinger, H.K.S. & Finegan, J. (2005). Using empowerment to build trust and respect in the workplace. Nursing Economics 23(1): 6-13.

Oulton, J.A. (2006). The global nursing shortage. Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice 7(3): 34S-39S.

Rosseter, R. (2017). Nursing faculty shortage fact sheet. American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Scherman, J. (2018). Nursing shortage in America. Rasmussen College.

“The States with the Largest Nursing Shortages,” (n.d.). Registered Nursing.
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