Solutions To The Nursing Shortage

A nursing shortage occurs when the demand for nursing professionals surpasses the available supply. Nursing shortages can occur on a local, national, and global level. The challenge of finding and retaining nurses is persistent in hospitals, and, while the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problem, nursing shortages have been common for a long time.

According to recent estimates by the American College of Medical Quality, 37 out of 50 states will face a significant nursing shortage by 2030. Several factors contribute to this crisis, including aging nurse and patient populations, low enrollment in nursing schools, and the impact of burnout on nurses.

What Does The Nursing Shortage Lead To?

A nursing shortage has far-reaching consequences that affect both patients and healthcare staff. The implications of this crisis extend beyond a mere lack of nurses. Here are some of the potential outcomes of a nursing shortage:

Heightened Patient Mortality

Insufficient nursing staff directly correlates with higher patient mortality rates. When a workforce is spread thin, it will struggle to provide adequate care, leading to medical errors, delayed responses, and compromised patient safety. The absence of timely interventions and vigilant monitoring can devastate patient outcomes.

Strain On Staff

With fewer nurses available, hospitals face a persistent challenge in maintaining an optimal nurse-to-patient ratio. This imbalance places tremendous strain on the existing nursing workforce, impeding their ability to meet the growing demands of an aging and increasingly complex patient population. The burden of care becomes overwhelming, jeopardizing patient well-being and nurse job satisfaction.

Financial Strain

The scarcity of nurses often compels hospitals to resort to crisis measures. Healthcare facilities may be forced to offer higher salaries and benefits to attract and retain nursing professionals, straining their financial resources. The resulting financial burden may impact the hospital’s ability to invest in other essential areas, hindering overall healthcare system development.

Diminished Quality Of Patient Care

When a facility is understaffed, patient care experiences a decline in quality. Nurses ensure patient comfort, administer medications, provide emotional support, and coordinate care. With fewer nurses, patients may experience longer wait times, less personalized attention, and reduced access to vital healthcare services, ultimately compromising their well-being.

Increasing Nurse Burnout

The nursing shortage exacerbates an already existing problem—nurse burnout. Overworked nurses face increased stress, fatigue, and emotional exhaustion. The relentless demands of their profession, coupled with inadequate staffing, lead to a higher risk of burnout. Burnout impacts nurses’ mental and physical health, reduces their job satisfaction, and increases the likelihood of them leaving the profession altogether, perpetuating the shortage.

What Are The Solutions To The Nursing Shortage?

Addressing the nursing shortage requires a multi-faceted approach that encompasses various strategies. Here are some recommended solutions that can help create a sustainable and thriving nursing workforce:

Increasing Salaries

One crucial step in resolving the nursing shortage is offering competitive salaries to all nurses. Adequate compensation helps attract new talent to the profession and plays a pivotal role in retaining experienced nurses.

Focusing on providing higher salaries to recruit and retain nursing faculty is particularly important. Nursing faculty members do not only serve as mentors, they also act as educators, preparing the next generation of nurses. However, due to the wage gap between academic and clinical nursing positions, many experienced nurses may choose to remain in clinical roles instead of pursuing teaching opportunities. Offering higher salaries to nursing faculty can incentivize experienced nurses to consider academic careers. This can help increase the pool of qualified nurse educators.

Funding Advanced Education

Investing in advanced nursing education is another essential aspect of addressing the nursing shortage. Providing financial support can encourage more nurses to pursue advanced degrees.

Advanced education equips nurses with specialized skills. This does not only enable them to take on leadership roles, but also conduct research, and contribute to evidence-based practice. These nurses can fill critical positions in areas such as advanced practice nursing. They can also help in nursing administration and research, thereby strengthening the healthcare system’s capacity and improving patient outcomes.

Nurses with advanced degrees also often serve as mentors and preceptors for less-experienced colleagues. This further enhances the quality of care delivered.

Expanding The Capacity Of Nursing Education Programs

Expanding the capacity of nursing education programs can also effectively address the nursing shortage. To meet the growing demand for nurses, institutions can consider increasing the number of nursing programs they provide. They may also consider admitting more students per class or semester. Expanding access to nursing education can help accommodate a greater number of aspiring nurses.

The expansion of online nursing programs can make nursing a more accessible career.  Programs such as those provided by Rockhurst University give students the thorough and rigorous education they need to develop the skills necessary to excel in nursing, whilst also being flexible by offering their education online.

Varied nursing programs can also help reduce the barriers to entry into the profession. This approach does not only ensure a more diverse workforce, but it also ensures an inclusive nursing workforce that’s best equipped to meet the unique needs of diverse patient populations.

Improving Nurse-patient Ratios

Nurse-patient ratios directly impact patient safety, quality of care, and nurse retention. Insufficient staffing levels can lead to increased workload, and in extreme cases, insufficient staffing can lead to burnout and mental health issues among nurses. Insufficient staffing not only jeopardizes the well-being of nurses but also impacts the quality of care patients receive. To address this issue, it is imperative to allocate additional funding to improve nurse-patient ratios.

Ensuring that nurses have manageable workloads can enhance patient safety and quality of care while simultaneously fostering a supportive and conducive environment for nurses. Adequate staffing levels allow nurses to provide holistic, patient-centered care, resulting in better outcomes and increased job satisfaction.

Improving The Work Environment

Creating a positive work environment is crucial for attracting and retaining nurses. Employers must prioritize factors such as scheduling flexibility, appropriate compensation packages, and patient safety.

Implementing scheduling practices that consider the well-being of nurses can improve work-life balance and reduce burnout. Offering competitive compensation packages that acknowledge nurses’ skills, knowledge, and expertise demonstrates appreciation for their contributions.

Moreover, prioritizing patient safety is paramount. Nurses need to work in environments where patient safety is the top priority, with adequate resources and support to ensure optimal care delivery. This includes fostering a culture of open communication, continuous professional development, and meaningful recognition of nurses’ contributions.


The nursing shortage demands a comprehensive approach to ensure a sustainable and thriving nursing workforce. These proposed strategies require collaboration between policymakers, educational institutions, healthcare organizations, and nursing professionals to create lasting solutions that will meet the growing healthcare needs of our society.

Leave a Comment