Global Nursing Shortage’ Implications

Registered nurses (RNs) account for the largest group of healthcare professionals in the US. The growing demand for RNs may be explained by the steady aging of the population and, thus, an increase in the number of people having medical problems. Apart from that, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act represented the expansion of health insurance coverage manifesting in more people coming to hospitals.

Nursing shortage becomes a more urgent problem, as there is a faculty shortage impeding thousands of prospective students to get a nursing education, as well as a baby boom bubble. The given essay discusses the implications of the nursing shortage and analyzes how nursing ideas and values influence the policy agenda.

Today’s global nursing shortage is having dramatic effects on the health care system in the whole world. Insurance companies and health care facilities create an equilibrium making physicians spend less time with patients to keep the business profitable. The nursing shortage also has a financial impact on health care institutions, as salaries of nurses should be competitive to attract potential workers. Currently, the lack of nursing personnel adversely affects health policy by creating a growing need for providing funds for salaries for nurses, investing in nursing education, and considering means of increasing nursing capacity. In particular, these means may include increasing the number of nurse educators and establishing sustainable initiatives to motivate nurses to stay in the country of origin.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) include an increase in the quality of healthy life and strengthening health care systems with more qualified personnel. MDGs are critical to nursing practice, as caring for humans means caring for their basic needs. The global shortage of healthcare professionals, especially nurses, is considered to be a great challenge to MDGs (Mendes & Ventura, 2017). One may note that an effective quality- and patient-oriented care does not exist without a sufficient number of qualified personnel to provide it.

Speaking of the first goal, which is eradicating hunger, it is nurses who are responsible for the nutritional care for patients and community members. In developing countries, nurses should advocate for equity in the distribution of food sources that are vital for survival (Mcdermott-Levy, Leffers, & Huffling, 2014). Speaking of the third goal, which is promoting gender inequality, one may note that nurses may help organizations working on women empowerment.

Speaking of the fourth goal, which is reducing child mortality rates, nurses may be involved in addressing the hazardous chemical exposures that have long-term negative effects on children (Mcdermott-Levy et al., 2014). Speaking of the fifth goal, which is improving maternal health, nurses may inform people about environmental exposures and the importance of avoiding pesticides during pregnancy. Therefore, the UN Millennium Development Goals are jeopardized by ineffective actions to sustain the nursing workforce.

Just like other groups of healthcare professionals, nurses should aim to participate in health policy decision-making in order to enhance patient care (Arabi, Rafii, Cheraghi, & Ghiyasvandian, 2014). One may note that reforms in the national policies enabled nurses to be engaged in policy agenda-setting. Since they regularly closely interact with patients, nurses can make a positive impact on different spheres of health care (Shariff, 2014).

There is an increased number of nurses who are active in policy agenda setting in many dimensions, including state and national governmental levels, professional associations, and schools of nursing. In particular, nursing associations have well-established procedures for formulating their policy proposals with consideration of nursing ideas, values, and beliefs. These associations follow a democratic process by gathering members’ concerns and suggestions that often result in policy agendas after discussion and debates. Examples of such organizations include the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Emergency Nurses Association, National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, and Oncology Nursing Society.

For cancer patients, currently, there are more treatment choices than ever before, even if a patient has advanced disease. However, a vast range of options may postpone making complex decisions. Also, there may be a disagreement between a physician and a patient as to which treatments are best to pursue, and when supportive measures should be preferred. That is why there are policies that dictate care options to help physicians determine when the treatment is medically futile.

Also, the guidelines state what doctors should do if a patient wants to have futile treatment instead of more appropriate options. According to ASCO guidelines, it is mandatory to incorporate palliative care for all patients with metastatic cancer or high symptom burden (Adelson et al., 2017). Transition to palliative care may be mandatory if no other treatment has a reasonable chance to help a patient.

To sum up, in the given essay, it has been explained that the nursing shortage is caused by an aging population and the lack of educational programs. The nursing shortage has created a need for changing health policies to attract more nurses and establishing more educational incentives for them. Since nurses are the critical component of the UN Millennium Development Goals, their achievement is significantly impeded by the nursing shortage. Nursing ideas and beliefs may impact policy agenda, as currently there are many politically-oriented nursing organizations. In some cases, health policy may dictate treatment options for physicians, in particular, if a patient has advanced cancer.


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Mendes, I. A., & Ventura, C. A. (2017). Nursing protagonism in the UN goals for the people’s health. Revista Latino-Americana De Enfermagem, 25, e2864. Web.

Shariff, N. (2014). Factors that act as facilitators and barriers to nurse leaders’ participation in health policy development. BMC Nursing, 13(20). Web.