Continued nursing shortage could cripple healthcare system 

by Jacob Fuller

Lauren Dempsey, MS in Biomedicine and Law, RN, FISM News 


Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system, providing 24/7 care to patients and continually working on the front lines. Yet, according to a survey conducted by OnePoll and, over half of nurses currently practicing are considering leaving the profession.

The survey included 1,000 American nurses from all over the country and aimed to better understand why so many nurses are experiencing burnout. The results were “sobering.” Nurses routinely feel that they cannot take a break, need more time off to recharge, and feel undervalued and unappreciated.

According to the survey, 90% of nurses believe the quality of patient care often suffers due to nursing shortages with 56% of nurses reporting that “their patients have suffered because they have too much on their plate,” and 55% of nurses reported feeling guilty for taking a break, because “they must always be on call.”

“Nurses have directly noticed that, in being spread too thin, they’re lacking the ability to ensure optimal care,” said connectRN CEO Ted Jeanloz. “With so many ongoing health crises happening simultaneously, the last thing we need is for patients to feel like they won’t receive the care they need when they seek medical attention, and for nurses to feel guilty that they can’t be in multiple places at once or provide the best care possible.”

Over half of the nurses surveyed admitted that they have considered leaving the profession completely. The main reasons reported were insufficient staffing, low wages, lack of respect, and discrimination.

Most nurses blame staffing shortages for why they don’t feel they have control over their careers and 58% think their employers are not doing enough to address nursing shortages. Over half of nurses reported that they are not appreciated in general, 32% cited lack of respect for the work they do as a top frustration, and another 32% said they don’t feel supported by their employer.

This paints a troubling picture of what it looks like to work as a nurse. Even more so when you consider that almost one in four nurses report having observed discrimination based on race, sex, or age. Another study found that nurses are more likely to face violence in the workplace. Approximately 25% of nurses have been physically assaulted by a patient or family member, and more than 50% reported having experienced verbal abuse or bullying. All of these factors contribute to 17.2% of nurses quitting their jobs each year.

The pandemic exacerbated an already growing problem with retaining nurses. In September 2021, the American Nursing Association (ANA) urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to declare the current situation a national crisis, citing that the nurse staffing shortage is “unsustainable.”

“Nurses alone cannot solve this long-standing issue and it is not our burden to carry,” said ANA President Ernest Grant. “If we truly value the immeasurable contributions of the nursing workforce, then it is imperative that HHS utilize all available authorities to address this issue.”

According to ANA, there are about 3.1 million nurses in the United States, representing the largest group of healthcare professionals in the nation and the primary providers of care. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than 203,000 new registered nurse positions will be created each year from 2021-2031, and estimates that employment will grow by 6% each year.

Nurses aren’t just needed for the physical tasks they complete like wound care, assessments, administering medication, or helping patients with activities of daily living. They also provide emotional support at the bedside being present at the crucial moments of birth, death, and everything in between.

The growing shortage of nurses could turn into a crisis, especially when the aging population and increase in chronic disease are considered. If the issues leading to nurses quitting the profession continue to go unaddressed, it could soon cripple the American healthcare system and have dire consequences for both patients and hospital systems.