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Nurse Understaffing Problem


The contemporary health care setting is aimed at providing high-quality care for its patients using the limited resources available for this purpose. However, there exist a number of problems that impair the ability to provide such care. The proposed project will focus on one such issue. The current paper describes the problem, the setting to which it pertains, its significance and impact, and the potential solutions for this issue.

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The Problem

The problem that will be the focus of the proposed project is that of nurse understaffing. In other words, the dearth of nursing personnel in the healthcare setting will be investigated in detail. In addition, potential measures that may be taken in order to address this issue will also be considered.

The Setting

The problem of understaffing in nursing plays an important role in a variety of health care settings. Any hospitals in which there is a severe lack of nursing personnel is usually at a serious disadvantage (Cimiotti, Barton, Gorman, Sloane, & Aiken, 2014; Martin, 2015). However, intensive care units (all types of these, including neonatal ICUs and ICUs for adults) face some of the most adverse consequences when there is a dearth of nurses (Beltempo, Blais, Lacroix, Cabot, & Piedboeuf, 2017; Gagliardi et al., 2016; Kiekkas, 2013; Rochefort, Rathwell, & Clarke, 2016; Rogowski et al., 2015; Shang, Stone, & Larson, 2015).

Description of the Problem

The crux of the problem is the lack of the nursing personnel in the health care setting, i.e., the situation in which the number of nurses working in a facility is smaller than the optimal number of nurses needed there (Kiekkas, 2013; Shang et al., 2015). In this situation, the nurses who are currently present in a facility have to do additional work, which causes their workload to exceed the optimal level and prevents them from providing adequate care for patients (Wendsche, Hacker, & Wegge, 2017).

The Impact of the Problem

The problem in question has a considerable adverse impact on the quality of health care. Nurse understaffing has been found to be associated with a high incidence of healthcare-associated infections (for instance, neonatal patients such as preterm infants may have an increased risk of sepsis; Gagliardi et al., 2016), as well as with the decreased overall quality of care, missed rounds, etc. (Beltempo et al., 2017; Kiekkas, 2013; Shang et al., 2015). In addition, nurse understaffing is associated with increased nurse burnout and turnover rates (Wendsche et al., 2017).

Significance of the Problem and its Implications

The problem of nurse understaffing is highly significant due to its considerable adverse impacts on the quality of care (Cimiotti et al., 2014 Rochefort et al., 2016). The implications of this problem are that the lack of nursing staff causes burnout and turnover of the currently present nurses, so the problem exacerbates itself even further, which means that it needs addressing as soon as possible (Wendsche et al., 2017).

Proposed Solutions

To address the problem of the dearth of nurses in the health care setting, it is paramount to attract additional nursing professionals to occupy nursing positions (Kiekkas, 2013; Martin, 2015). This may require the provision of additional resources to be used in the health care setting (Cimiotti et al., 2014). It is also possible that highly effective management practices may allow for mitigating the adverse impacts of the dearth of nurses in the health care setting. For instance, Wendsche et al. (2017) state that regular (rather than irregular) rest breaks may permit improving the retention rates of nurses even when there is a lack of nursing staff in a facility.

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On the whole, the problem of nurse understaffing plays an essential role in the health care setting, significantly lowering the quality of care provided for patients, and causing an increased workload, burnout, and turnover of nurses. It is paramount that this problem is addressed as soon as possible, if not by providing adequate nurse staffing, then at least by implementing interventions allowing for decreasing its negative impact on the stakeholders involved in the health care process.


Beltempo, M., Blais, R., Lacroix, G., Cabot, M., & Piedboeuf, B. (2017). Association of nursing overtime, nurse staffing, and unit occupancy with health care-associated infections in the NICU. American Journal of Perinatology, 34(10), 996-1002. Web.

Cimiotti, J. P., Barton, S. J., Gorman, K. E. C., Sloane, D. M., & Aiken, L. H. (2014). Nurse reports on resource adequacy in hospitals that care for acutely ill children. Journal for Healthcare Quality, 36(2), 25-32.

Gagliardi, L., Corchia, C., Bellù, R., Coscia, A., Zangrandi, A., & Zanini, R. (2016). What we talk about when we talk about NICUs: Infants’ acuity and nurse staffing. The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 29(18), 2934-2939.

Kiekkas, P. (2013). Nurse understaffing and infection risk: Current evidence, future research and health policy. Nursing in Critical Care, 18(2), 61-62.

Martin, C. J. (2015). The effects of nurse staffing on quality of care. MEDSURG Nursing, 24(2), S4-S6.

Rochefort, C. M., Rathwell, B. A., & Clarke, S. P. (2016). Rationing of nursing care interventions and its association with nurse-reported outcomes in the neonatal intensive care unit: A cross-sectional survey. BMC Nursing, 15(1), 46-53. Web.

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Rogowski, J. A., Staiger, D. O., Patrick, T. E., Horbar, J. D., Kenny, M. J., & Lake, E. T. (2015). Nurse staffing in neonatal intensive care units in the United States. Research in Nursing & Health, 38(5), 333-341.

Shang, J., Stone, P., & Larson, E. (2015). Studies on nurse staffing and health care-associated infection: Methodologic challenges and potential solutions. American Journal of Infection Control, 43(6), 581-588.

Wendsche, J., Hacker, W., & Wegge, J. (2017). Understaffing and registered nurses’ turnover: The moderating role of regular rest breaks. German Journal of Human Resource Management, 31(3), 1-22. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Nurse Understaffing Problem." February 22, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Nurse Understaffing Problem." February 22, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Nurse Understaffing Problem'. 22 February.

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