Nationwide Nursing Shortages Raising Questions About Quality of Care

Nationwide nursing shortages raising questions about quality of care

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the United States is experiencing nationwide nursing shortages. 

The shortage of nurses is expected to increase as Baby Boomers age and require more health care. Also, nursing schools across the country are expanding their capacities in an attempt to provide communities with more qualified nurses.


The AACN is collaborating with nursing organizations, schools, policy makers, and media channels to address this issue. nursing organizations, schools, policy makers, and media channels to address this issue. 

Projected growth for Registered Nursing (RN) is expected to increase from 2.71 million in 2012 to 3.24 million in 2022, an increase of 526,800 or 19%.  There will be a need for  525,000 replacements nurses which will bring the number of openings in the field of nursing to 1.05 million by 2022.  

In 2015, staffing agencies and employers posted 121,000 ads for Registered Nurses. The Southern and Western United States are the hardest hit with shortages.

The Institute of Medicine released a report In October 2010, which called for increasing the number of nurses with bachelor's degrees in the workforce to 80% and doubling the population of nurses with doctoral degrees. Unfortunately, these numbers fall short, with only 55% of registered nurses prepared at the baccalaureate or graduate degree level.   

In the July/August 2009 Health Affairs, Dr. Peter Buerhaus discovered that despite past easing of the nursing shortage due to the recession, the U.S. nursing shortage is projected to grow to 260,000 registered nurses by 2025.  A shortage of this magnitude would be twice as large as any nursing shortage experienced in this country since the mid-1960s.  In the article titled The Recent Surge In Nurse Employment: Causes And Implications, the researchers point to a rapidly aging workforce as a primary contributor to the projected shortage. 

With these shortages, many nurses are feeling overwhelmed with excessive workloads and high patient to nurse ratios. Many nurses have decided to leave the profession because of such high and unreasonable demands. Of more that 3,300 nurses surveyed recently by the Vickie Milazzo Institute in Houston, 64 percent admitted they rarely get the recommended seven to eight hours sleep per night, and 77 percent said they did not eat a proper diet. 

The same survey revealed that 89 percent of nurses say they cannot work effectively because they have lack of support staff and apathetic superiors who don't allow them enough authority. 

Nurses are also faced with the dilemma of administering standardized care to meet the requirements of health insurance companies versus treating all patients as individuals and advocating the right care for each patient.  I should not be continuous uphill battle for nurses to fight for the right of appropriate care for their patients. 

When nurses are not offered the opportunity and authority to make critical decisions patients suffer, some even die at the hands of physicians who are either incompetent or unavailable when needed.  A 2013 study in Journal of Patient Safety estimates that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients are killed at hospitals each year as a result of medical errors. The red-tape involved just to discontinue a Foley catheter from a patient is excessive. Scope of practice limitations are huge problem for nurses in America and policy changes are needed to alleviate this burden.  

In a survey conducted by nurses were asked what their biggest frustrations were.  90 percent of nurses said the problems they experienced from being short-staffed where the most concerning. 

When asked about salary satisfaction only 13 percent said they felt they were paid fairly. 60 percent said they felt that they were worth more that what they were currently paid. 

According to a study, Oregon was ranked the best state for nurses to work in, followed by Washington, South Dakota, Arizona, and New Mexico. Mississippi ranked last.

So how will the affect registered nurses who are currently in the workplace? For employers to fill open positions for nurses, they must be competitive. Offering larger sign-on bonuses and higher wages is something we may see employers doing more often. 

Nurses can also expect to see more authoritative supervisory roles as employers realize that registered nurses need to delegate to accomplish more during each shift.  Hopefully, this will begin to address the scope of practice restrictions nurses are faced with and open the door for more individualized care for each patient, which is the goal of every nurse. 

Do you have a comment about this article? Comment below.

Looking for a job? Click here