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Nursing Shortage in the United States


Nursing shortage causes major problems in the provision of quality healthcare, a challenge that the United States of America currently faces. The country has 12% less than the required registered nurses to meet health care demands, and as of 2008, the health system had a shortage of at least 220,000 registered nurses (Rossman 72). The shortage will worsen further in the coming years; thus, by 2020, the deficit will increase fivefold if compared to 2008 since more than 50% of the professional workers will retire (Rossman 72). These shortages are associated with high levels of low quality nursing care, poor patient outcomes, and high levels of nurse burnout. High patient to nurse ratios increase the level of burnout among nurses, something that results in poor patient outcomes (Rosseter). In the USA, many factors are behind the ever-worsening shortage of nurses, and if nothing is done to curb the shortage, the future of the health system is wanting. This essay looks forward to discussing the reasons for the nursing shortage and appropriate measures to fix the challenge.

Reasons for Nursing Shortage in the USA

The first cause of the nursing shortage is the increase in population size, especially for the aging population, at the rate higher than the supply of nurse professionals. The elderly population further adds a huge burden to the current work overload for nurses and other health professionals because this population bears the largest burden of chronic diseases. As people age, the likelihood of developing at least one chronic condition increases, and in the USA, more than 80% of the senior citizens have one or more of these diseases (Barrett) Currently, more than 117 million Americans suffer from chronic illnesses (Sambamoorthi et al. 825). Baby boomers will further contribute to the rise of the aging population in the future from the current 47 million to more than 80 million people by 2030 (Kelly). Kelly further explains that the national population in the country will grow by 3.9%, while that of the aged population will grow by 17% between 2015 and 2020. The growth in the population of the American people and the high chronic disease burden not only increase nurse workload but also increase the nursing shortage.

The high nursing staff turnover and the increase in health insurance coverage have and will further increase access to healthcare services, which worsens the existing shortage of nurses. Cassidy asserts that in the country, there is a dearth of care providers, including nurses, because of the effects of Affordable Care Act that increase health insurance coverage without enhancing the supply of care providers. Nevertheless, the high turnover rates among nursing professionals contribute to the existing shortage. Thus, 13% of the newly licensed registered nurses change their jobs after one year (Rosseter). Some of those who change their jobs quit the clinical areas, leaving few staffs to provide care.

Finally, the aging nursing workforce is difficult to replace yet, the schools of nursing produce inadequate amount of professionals to satisfy the demand. The US Census estimates reveal that more than 19.6 million American workers will have a minimum of 65 years of age accounting for 19% of the whole workforce (Harrington and Heidkamp 1). The number of people in the US workforce between the age of 25 and 54 years will grow by 2%, while that of 65 years and more will rise by 75% (Harrington and Heidkamp 1). Schools of nursing do little to fill the gap. For instance, the US schools of nursing turned away 67,563 qualified applicants from both graduate and baccalaureate programs due to the inadequate faculty and resources (Littlejohn et al. 23). Such a thing shows that these schools and relevant authorities are not prepared to address the shortage by providing new members of the profession to satisfy the current and future demand for health care providers.

Solutions to Curb Nursing Shortage

First, health policy and legislation adjustment are needed to help improve the work environment and reduce high rates of retirement before the recommended age and increased nursing staff turnover. The Institute of Medicine found that not only did executing strategies to improve work conditions for nurses improve job performance but it also prevented early retirement (13). Improving the working conditions and ensuring better remuneration can further prevent high rates of turnover of professional nurses who work in clinical areas. Finally, the government and other relevant stakeholders, including the schools of nursing, should work hard to increase the number of students enrolling for nursing education to ensure the supply of nurses is adequate to meet the rising demand. Efforts, such as providing adequate faculty and resources, can allow more enrollment of students in nursing programs. This measure is useful because the major factor affecting the USA to curb nursing shortage is the inability of these schools to increase enrollment because of the scarcity of faculty (Littlejohn et al. 23). Therefore, the implementation of these measures can improve the shortage in the country.


The USA experiences an acute shortage of nursing staff caused by many factors, but the application of effective measures improves the situation. The increase in the overall American population and the aging groups surpass the rise in the supply of nurses across the country. Furthermore, the high staff turnover and the increase in health insurance coverage reduce the number of nurses in clinical settings and increase the demand for health care services respectively, worsening the current shortage. In addition, the aging high rates of the aging workforce, which exceed the entry of young nurses into practice from school, contribute to the shortage. Legislative modifications and improving working conditions can limit early retirement and prevent high staff turnover to alleviate the problem. Moreover, relevant education stakeholders should ensure that more students enroll in nursing programs than before by providing adequate resources and faculty.

Works Cited

Barrett, Jessica. “The Impact of Baby Boomers on the Nursing Shortage.” Strategic Programs, 30 March 2016, Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.

Cassidy, Amanda. “Health Policy Brief: Nurse Practitioners and Primary Care.” Health Affairs, vol. 25, no. 10, 2013, Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.

Harrington, Laurie, and Maria Heidkamp. “The Aging Workforce: Challenges for the Health Care Industry Workforce.” NTAR Leadership Center Brief, 2013, Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.

Institute of Medicine. Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce. National Academies Press, 2008.

Kelly, Annemarie. “Aging America: Concerns Facing the Growing Elderly.” Kaplan University, 2016, Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.

Littlejohn, Lauren et al. “Comparative Analysis of Nursing Shortage.” International Journal of Nursing, vol. 1, no. 1, 2012, pp. 22-27. Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.

Rosseter, Robert. “Nursing Shortage Fact Sheet.” American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 24 Apr. 2014. Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.

Rossman, Andrea. “The US Nursing Shortage and Nonprofits.” SPNHA Review, vol. 6, no. 1, 2010, pp. 70-87.

Sambamoorthi, Usha et al. “Multiple Chronic Conditions and Healthcare Costs Among Adults.” Expert Review of Pharmacoeconomics & Outcomes Research, vol. 15, no. 5, 2015, pp. 823-832. 10.1586/14737167.2015.1091730. Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.