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Low Nursing Staffing as an Organizational Issue


This paper presents the low staffing of nursing as an organizational issue that threatens patients’ safety and the realization of their health demands. Specifically, having inadequate nursing personnel compromises the quality of care accorded to ailing people. Hence, the U.S. government needs to take urgent measures aimed at providing adequate nurses to all healthcare facilities to reduce instances of preventable deaths reported among patients who fail to get the required attention from nurses. This move is in line with the goals stipulated in the Health People 2020 framework.

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The Setting Where Low Staffing is Observed

The problem of low staffing of nurses is evident across many hospitals in the U.S. According to Bowblis and Ghattas (2017), a study conducted across two states, including New Mexico and Vermont, indicated the extent to which patients have suffered due to the unavailability of nurses. This problem has been observed in the above regions for more than two decades (Bowblis & Ghattas, 2017).

Another article by Kossek, Piszczek, McAlpine, Hammer, and Burke (2016) emphasizes the problem of low staffing in the U.S. Competitive healthcare costs have contributed significantly to the observed low number of nurses in various medical centers in America “because Medicaid and other reimbursement and business cost margins are stressed” (Kossek et al., 2016, p. 964). Hence, achieving quality healthcare services may require the U.S. government to review the prevailing patient-nurse proportion.

Detailed Description of the Problem

The low staffing of nurses across various hospitals is a major problem that reveals the degree to which patients continue to suffer in hospital beds. According to Busari, Burghgraef, and Faverey (2016), the need for minimizing operational costs in many healthcare facilities in America has triggered the idea of terminating nurses’ employment contracts. This approach indicates a shift from ensuring the availability of patient-centered care to affordable operations costs.

Fagerström, Lønning, and Andersen (2014) traced the problem of low staffing in America to the 1940s and 1950s when this country embarked on devising measures for ensuring that no patients died due to the lack of nursing officials to attend to their medical needs. Hence, it suffices to conclude that the low staffing of nursing officers is deep-rooted in the U.S.

The Impact of Low Staffing of Nurses

The shortage of nurses in different American health facilities implies that the available staff members are not sufficient to constantly document and access data concerning respective patients’ status. According to Kossek et al. (2016), the low staffing of nursing officials has been associated with “lower-quality patient care, higher mortality, lower job satisfaction, and higher burnout rates” (p. 964).

The most affected category of patients includes the elderly or those suffering from chronic ailments, which require them to stay in hospital beds for an extended time under close supervision (Kossek et al., 2016). According to Hockenberry and Becker (2016) and Hays et al. (2017), insufficient nursing personnel results in reduced organizational performance, which threatens patients’ health outcomes and, consequently, their safety.

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The Significance of this Problem

According to Ulrich (2018), failing to attend to patients consistently due to the lack of personnel violates the Healthy People 2020 agenda. This health framework seeks to ensure optimal healthcare delivery to all people (Jangland, Nyberg, & Yngman‐Uhlin, 2017). The U.S. risks incurring extra costs of accommodating an increasing number of patients in hospitals due to slowed recuperation processes following the lack of nurses whose services enhance their recovery rates.

Conclusion: Proposed Solution

The problem of low patient-nurse ratio among healthcare facilities in the U.S. can be addressed by establishing policies that govern the hiring of nurses. For instance, America can assess the status of all medical centers before enacting laws that require particular levels of hospitals to have a specific number of nurses at any given time. Hence, patients will be assured of maximum supervision during their stay in medical facilities.


Bowblis, J., & Ghattas, A. (2017). The impact of minimum quality standard regulations on nursing home staffing, quality, and exit decisions. Review of Industrial Organization, 50(1), 43-68. Web.

Busari, J. O., Burghgraef, J., & Faverey, L. C. (2016). The workload intens-o-meter: A novel instrument designed to determine workload intensity and adequacy of nurse staffing in a pediatric ward. International Journal of Healthcare Management, 9(3), 149-154. Web.

Fagerström, L., Lønning, K., & Andersen, M. H. (2014). The RAFAELA system: A workforce planning tool for nurse staffing and human resource management. Nursing Management – UK, 21(2), 30-36.

Hays, R., Daker-White, G., Esmail, A., Barlow, W., Minor, B., Brown, B., … Bower, P. (2017). Threats to patient safety in primary care reported by older people with multimorbidity: Baseline findings from a longitudinal qualitative study and implications for intervention. BMC Health Services Research, 17, 1-12. Web.

Hockenberry, J. M., & Becker, E. R. (2016). How do hospital nurse staffing strategies affect patient satisfaction? ILR Review, 69(4), 890-910. Web.

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Jangland, E., Nyberg, B., & Yngman‐Uhlin, P. (2017). ‘It’s a matter of patient safety’: Understanding challenges in everyday clinical practice for achieving good care on the surgical ward – A qualitative study. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 31(2), 323-331.

Kossek, E. E., Piszczek, M. M., McAlpine, K. L., Hammer, L. B., & Burke, L. (2016). Filling the holes. ILR Review, 69(4), 961-990. Web.

Ulrich, B. T. (2018). The health and safety of nephrology nurses and the environments in which they work: Important for nurses, patients, and organizations. Nephrology Nursing Journal, 45(2), 117-168.

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