Don’t Call it a Nursing “Shortage”

July 9, 2023

The current nursing shortage has been an increasing epidemic all around the world. When we see nursing students, they no longer look excited, but worn down. Even worse, it’s felt from the richest to the most vulnerable communities. Maybe there is no “shortage” at all? Maybe there is a direct lack of communication, compassion, and concern for patients and staff that is tangible. What the pandemic has showed us is a hard reflection of problems that have existed, blatantly, and in front of our faces for centuries, in places that were grossly overlooked. There are educational, administrative, legislative, and psychosocial issues that currently affect the shortage. According to Tamata et al., (2022), four themes were identified as factors influencing the nursing workforce shortage, including policy and planning barriers, barriers to training and enrollment, factors causing nursing staff turnover, and nurses’ stress and burnout.

Burnout and stress are influential factors in nurse shortages due to unsafe staffing, unfair compensation, and unsafe work environments. When nurses stand up and say enough, when they rally, unionize, and protest change can happen. Oregon, California, and New York have been showing the rest of the country what is possible and what can be done when voices are raised together. These states have passed bills and mandates that protect nurses from unsafe staffing conditions, helping to ensure retention rates and lowering turnover. “As of November 2021, there were 4.4 million licensed RNs in the United States, but only 3.2 million employed as RNs and 1.8 million working in hospitals, according to the report, which faults poor working conditions such as understaffing for driving nurses away from acute care”(“Nursing Shortage”, 2022, para. 4).

Furthermore, nursing education causes so much stress to the students that many individuals are no longer interested in enrolling in school or completing their programs. Even educators and faculty are leaving due to the policies and barriers they face. With burnout increasing and an older generation of nurses retiring, we will not have enough nurses left to support the system if things do not change soon. If laws were enacted to protect nurses and nursing students from these factors across the country, there would not be so many nurses leaving the profession which directly contributes to the shortages we face. Nurses are becoming more involved in legislation and healthcare reform, but many are afraid of losing their livelihood if they stand against policies they know are damaging the healthcare they provide, due to workplace retaliation. There should be financial penalties in place that hospital executives and politicians can understand for this retaliation, and for not upholding safe staffing policies.

Resolving this issue requires an understanding of what the true issues are and working within an interdisciplinary system to influence reform at the congressional level. As per Costa et al., (2022), we contend that there isn’t a shortage of nurses, but a shortage of hospitals that provide nurses with safe work environments and adequate pay and benefits. As long as greed, ego, and profits remain the priority in healthcare the nursing “shortage” will continue.


Costa, D. & Friese, C. (2022). Policy strategies for addressing current threats to the U.S. nursing workforce. New England Journal of Medicine, 386, 2454–2456. 10.1056/NEJMp2202662

Nursing Shortage or Exodus. (2022). American Journal of Nursing, 122(3), 12–13. 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000822928.16774.9a

Tamata, A. & Mohammadnezhad, M. (2022). A systematic review study on the factors affecting shortage of nursing workforce in the hospitals. NursingOpen, 10(3), 1247–1257.

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