Nurse Shortage Intervention: Strategic Planning

The problem of nurse shortage is not new to healthcare. Moreover, it becomes burning in critical and intensive care units where the workload is high, and nurses observe an increased risk of burnout (Pastores & Kvetan, 2015). Nurse shortage has a negative impact not only on nurses themselves. It also influences patients and can lead to negative patient outcomes due to less attention that a nurse gives to a patient (Ferrer et al., 2014). Therefore, there is a need for a strategic plan to address nurse shortage and thus contribute both to nurse retention and improved patient outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to present a strategic plan of an intervention aimed at reduction of nurse shortage in intensive and critical care units.

Key Concepts

The major concepts that should be considered for this strategic plan are the stakeholders involved and the SWOT analysis approach. The analysis of staff members and external specialists involved is necessary to determine their roles in the plan realization. SWOT analysis enables assessing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats internal and external to the organization, that should be considered while planning interventions.

Stakeholders Involved

The plan is aimed at reduction of nurse shortage in intensive and critical care units. Therefore, the staff of these units and nurse managers will be involved. Thus, nurse professionals employed in these units will be invited as participants. They have the first-hand experience of work in critical and intensive conditions and can evaluate the suggested project. Also, it is necessary to include nurse managers because they should be able to provide their activities in a way to achieve maximum retention and reduce nurse shortage. A nurse manager will be the leader of the project. A representative of a nurse labor union will be involved as well.

Unions protect labor interests of professionals and can provide legal advice in case of necessity. A representative of the organization’s administration will also be invited. Although critical and intensive care units are quite autonomous, they are parts of the organization and follow its mission and policies. Moreover, the administration is expected to be interested in improving working conditions and thus reducing nurse shortage.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis is a method that allows organizations to evaluate different aspects of a new plan. For this organization before the implementation of the strategic plan, the SWOT analysis comprises the following.



  • Awareness of the necessity of change
  • Flexible internal policies
  • Use of information technology to simplify nurse duties in intensive and critical care units
  • Continuous nurse education
  • Thoughtful scheduling



  • The lack of trained nurse managers
  • The lack of national and local planning for the workload
  • High risk of burnout due to work in shifts
  • The lack of effective nurse leaders

Thus, one of the obvious strengths of the organization is that it accepts the necessity for change and is aware of nurse shortage problem. Another strength comprises flexible internal policies which can be altered to provide nurses with better work conditions. At the same time, such weaknesses as the lack of trained nurse managers and poor planning of workload slow down the possible improvements. The organization is open to new opportunities.

Thus, it supports the use of health IT such as electronic health record to make the work of nurses less loaded. Moreover, the organization is interested in continuous nurse education, which is beneficial both for nurse employees and the organization itself since it will get well-trained professionals. Finally, the organization is ready to review scheduling policies to reduce nurse fatigue and burnout. Still, there are some threats that can prevent the project implementation. There still is a high risk of burnout because of the necessity to work in shifts and working extra hours. Moreover, the lack of effective nurse leaders may not allow change implementation.

Top Priorities

One of the top priorities that has a potential to address the nurse shortage is a prediction of factors that can influence nurse retention (Sawatzky, Enns, & Legare, 2015). According to the SWOT analysis, these factors can include flexibility of organization, attention to continuous education, stimulation of applying health IT, and thoughtful scheduling. These factors can increase nurse job satisfaction and, as a result, improve retention rates thus decreasing nurse shortage. Another priority is to reveal and address the weaknesses and threats that can create barriers to change implementation. In case weaknesses and threats are revealed, there is an opportunity to eliminate them or at least decrease their negative influence. Consequently, nurse shortage can be prevented.


On the whole, nurse shortage is a burden of healthcare as a whole and critical or intensive care units in particular. Still, the problem can be addressed in case the organization is open to change. Thus, it is necessary to define strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, both internal and external and address them on an organizational level. The knowledge of weaknesses and threats as well as attention to strengths and opportunities allow improving the situation with nurse shortage through the creation of more favorable work conditions and stimulation of professional development.


Ferrer, J., Boelle, P., Salomon, J., Miliani, K., L’Hériteau, F., Astagneau, P., & Temime, L. (2014). Management of nurse shortage and its impact on pathogen dissemination in the intensive care unit. Epidemics, 9, 62-69. Web.

Pastores, S., & Kvetan, V. (2015). Shortage of intensive care specialists in the United States: Recent insights and proposed solutions. Revista Brasileira De Terapia Intensiva, 27(1), 5-6. Web.

Sawatzky, J., Enns, C., & Legare, C. (2015). Identifying the key predictors for retention in critical care nurses. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 71(10), 2315-2325. Web.