Nurse Shortage Harms Patient

Nurse Shortage Harms Patient 

Nurse Shortage Harms Patient. Although some countries have been dealing with nurse shortages for a while, the Covid pandemic exacerbated this problem and its impacts. Nurses comprise the largest section of the healthcare profession and are a critical part of healthcare. Factors such as high turnover, limited potential educators, and inequitable workforce distribution contribute to the nursing shortage. With the pivotal role played in the health setting, nurses’ high demand and low availability hurt patient outcomes.

The nurse shortage problem is both a local and global issue. According to the World Health Organization, there is a shortage of 7.2 million health workers based on current health needs (Machitidze, 2022). The problem is more profound in Europe, North America, and Asia. Within the United States, projections indicate that there will be a need for more than 11 million additional nurses to deal with the deficits (Haddad et al., 2022). The Covid pandemic depicted not only the problem’s extent but also increased shortage due to turnover and increased health demands.

Who is to blame for the nurse shortage?

The nursing shortage problem is not attributable to one issue but an intersection of different factors. Some of the contributing elements include;

  • An aging population- the global population is aging, increasing the need for healthcare services. With the availability of better health services, the aging population is living longer, and the health demands impose a strain on the workforce
  • Aging workforce- the nursing workforce is equally aging and retiring, creating a workforce gap. In the US, there are over 1 million registered nurses over 50 years, meaning that a third of the workforce will be at retirement age in 15 years (Haddad et al., 2022).
  • Nurse burnout- with an increased workload, nurses experience burnout, leading to an increased turnover.
  • Stressful work environment- beyond burnout, the health setting is a stressful work environment for nurses. An example is that nurses face violence and have to deal with the threats of physical and emotional abuse. The nursing profession is the most vulnerable to workplace aggression within healthcare.
  • Worker migration- nurses sometimes migrate to different countries with better work conditions and pay, leading to shortages in their home countries. For example, Poland nurses migrated to other countries after becoming part of the European Union (Machitidze, 2022).

Impacts on nurse shortage

The clinical significance of nurse shortage is that it affects staffing ratios. A lower number of nurses means that the available workforce will have to handle an increased workload by attending to more patients than recommended. The World Health Organization recommends a staffing ratio of 1:200 for nurses and patients, respectively (Zhu et al., 2019). While this is the case, the nurse staffing ratio is higher than this. An example is Malaysia, which stands at 1:329 (Suhaimi et al., 2021).

The poor staffing ratios increase burnout in nurses and the ability to deliver better health outcomes. The shortage of nurses means that the existing workers perform a higher workload leading to burnout. As an outcome of the stress imposed on the performance of their daily duties, burnout has a physical and psychological impact on nurses. It impedes the ability to offer effective care. An example is that the nurse will spend a limited amount of time with a patient, which lowers the intervention’s quality.

The high workload increases the dissatisfaction level of the nurses while lowering their motivation. Achieving better outcomes depends on the motivation level of nurses as it determines the performance of their duties. The large workload increases dissatisfaction and is a contributing factor to high turnover (Haddad et al., 2022). Effectively, the nurse will have a lower commitment to improving the patient’s health, leading to poorer outcomes.

The shortage affects the ability to effecting perform their duties, this increases the likelihood of errors and leads to higher morbidity and mortality rates. Medical errors are a concern in care delivery due to their effect on patient outcomes. Beyond increasing the length of stay, the errors influence mortality, indicating poor health outcomes. Failure to rescue is also part of environments with nurse shortages, leading to higher mortality.

In summation, the failure to address the nurse shortage affects the quality of care directed toward patients. The cost of nurse shortage is felt by all stakeholders within the health profession, hence the need to address the problem. Solutions lie in maintaining recommended nurse-patient ratios and leveraging technology to improve outcomes. Further, an investment in nurse education can equally help increase the availability of qualified professionals.




Haddad, L.M., Annamaraju, P., & Toney-Butler, T.J. (2022). Nursing Shortage. Treasure Island.

Machitidze, M. (2022). Impact of The Nurse’s Education and Shortage on The Patients Care Outcomes-Literature Review. Am J Biomed Sci & Res. 15(4).

Suhaimi, A., Mulud, Z., & Ahmad, S. (2021). Shortage Of Nurses’ Impact on Quality Care: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Islamic, Social, Economics, and Development (JISED), 6(36), 73-80.

Zhu, X., Zheng, J., Liu, K., & You, L. (2019). The mediation effect tested by structural equation modeling is the ratio of nursing care and its relationship with nurse staffing and patient outcomes. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(10).

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