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Nursing Shortage and Mandatory Overtime

The US healthcare system experiences an increasing overload at present. The aging of baby boomers, a rising number of people with chronic conditions, and extended access to care provided by the Affordable Care Act put much pressure on the healthcare workforce (Wheatley, 2017). The most affected group within the workforce is nurses because they spend more time caring for patients than any other healthcare professional and accompany patients at each stage along the healthcare journey. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA, 2019), two top issues for staff nurses include safe staffing levels and mandatory overtime. The problem with staffing levels is that they are inadequate throughout the country, so hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities suffer from nursing shortages (Bradley University, n.d.). Mandatory overtime was intended to address the problem of nursing shortage by making nurses work more than 40 hours per week (Bradley University, n.d.). However, it appears to be a controversial solution since it has its own adverse effects and leads to the risk of an even larger nursing shortage.

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Influence of the Problem on the Nursing Practice

Nursing shortage negatively affects both patient outcomes and nurses’ well-being. Due to inadequate staffing, nurses have to work overtime, which leads to fatigue, stress, and higher risks of workplace injury (ANA, 2019). These factors, in their turn, prevent nurses from providing safe and high-quality patient care. In addition, research shows that when healthcare professionals work more than 12 hours in a row, their risk of making a medical error may increase by three times (Bradley University, n.d.). For example, one of the most frequent medical errors made by nurses working overtime was the administration of wrong doses of medications (Wheatley, 2017). The risk of needlestick injuries, pressure ulcers, patient falls, and nosocomial infections also increases when nurses work more than 12 hours in a shift (Wheatley, 2017). Thus, nurses who have to work extra hours because of inadequate staffing put their and their patients’ safety at risk.

Mandatory overtime also has a negative impact on nurses’ job attitudes and the intention to stay in the profession. While some nurses may be willing to work additional hours to raise more money or meet their professional goals, for others, overtime may be regarded as an infringement of their work-life balance. As a result, mandatory overtime undermines nurses’ morale, reduces job satisfaction, and increases turnover intent (Wheatley, 2017). Hence, requesting nurses to work extra hours is not a solution to the problem of the nursing shortage. It leads to a negative cycle, in which a lack of nurses leads to overtime, which forces nurses to leave their jobs and causes an even greater nursing shortage.

Possible Solution to the Problem

The problem of the nursing shortage is not easy to resolve because it takes much time to recruit and educate new nursing professionals. Yet, it is possible to suggest several options that may help healthcare organizations to improve staffing and reduce the rates of nurses working overtime. For example, hospitals may partner with educational institutions to ensure they always have enough qualified candidates to fill open positions. Healthcare organizations can establish special training programs for nurses or recruit talented recent graduates (Bradley University, n.d.). Another possible solution to the problem is hiring part-time or travel nurses (Bradley University, n.d.). These nurses can work for several healthcare organizations and help the regular staff to cope with the workload when there are many patients or some of the regular nurses call in sick. Improving working conditions for nurses may also be an effective solution. Giving assistance to nurses, raising wages, and shortening working hours is likely to reduce nurses’ stress and fatigue and help them provide high-quality patient care. Overall, partnering with nursing colleges and universities and hiring part-time nurses are the most feasible solutions to the nursing shortage and mandatory overtime.

Resources Needed to Address the Problem

As was discussed above, one of the reasonable solutions to address the problem is partnering with educational institutions to train new nurses in advance. This can be regarded as part of the organization’s strategic planning, which is used to solve various kinds of problems that hospitals are faced with (Bradley University, n.d.). The resources necessary to implement this solution would include human capital, that is, educators and nursing managers who would establish a partnership with colleges and universities. Human resources in the form of part-time nurses would also be valuable for addressing the problem because they will reduce the workload of the full-time workforce.


American Nurses Association. (2019). Top issues for staff nurses. Web.

Bradley University. (n.d.). Mandatory overtime in nursing: What you need to know. Web.

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Wheatley, C. (2017). Nursing overtime: Should it be regulated? Nursing Economics, 35(4), 213-217.

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