Case Study—Shortage of Nurses

: Case Study—Shortage of Nurses

the Businessweek Case: A Critical Shortage of Nurses;

  • In 1-2 paragraphs, summarize
    the case and your research that relates to the case.
  • Based on your research, explain
    at least three trends which you believe are contributing to the nursing
    shortage. Justify your response.
  • Based on your research, explain
    at least three HR trends and practices which might help hospitals recruit
    and retain enough nurses. Justify your response.
  • Explain the skills and
    knowledge an HR Manager needs in a hospital and how these skills and
    knowledge can be used to help attract and retain nurses.

a 3-page paper in Word format. Apply current APA standards for writing style to
your work. Utilize at least three outside resources, one of which may be your
text book, in formulating your response.


United States is facing a severe nursing shortage. Already, an estimated 8.5
percent of U.S. nursing positions are unfilled—and some expect that number to
triple by 2020 as 80 million baby boomers retire and expand the ranks of those
needing care. Hospital administrators and nurses’ advocates have declared a
staffing crisis as the nursing shortage hits its 10th year.

So why aren’t nurses paid more? Wages for registered nurses
rose just 1.34 percent from 2006 to 2007, trailing well behind inflation. The
answer is complicated, influenced by hospital cost controls and insurance
company reimbursement policies. But another factor is often overlooked: Huge
numbers of nurses are brought into the United States from abroad every year. In
recent years nearly a third of the RNs joining the U.S. workforce were born in
other countries.

Critics say this is a short-term solution that could create
long-term problems. The influx of non-U.S. nurses allows hospitals to fill
positions at low salaries. But it prevents the sharp wage hike that would
encourage Americans to enter the field, which could solve the nursing shortage
in the years ahead. “Better pay would signify to society that nursing is a promising
career,” says Peter Buerhaus, a professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University.
“It’s a critical factor in building the workforce of the future.”

The U.S. market for nurses is a reflection of how labor
markets can change with globalization. With new technology and the increasing
movement of workers, labor markets are no longer local or even national. Supply
and demand don’t work quite as they did in the past. Shortages in one market
aren’t corrected with higher prices if supply comes from another.

Pay isn’t the only issue. Difficult working conditions and
understaffing also deter qualified people from pursuing the profession. But
average annual wages for registered nurses (one of the most highly trained
categories) is now just under $58,000 a year, compared with a $36,300 average
for U.S. workers overall. And it’s clear that qualified American nurses see
that as not enough: 500,000 registered nurses are not practicing their
profession—one-fifth of the current RN workforce of 2.5 million and enough to
fill current vacancies twice over.

Hospitals insist the U.S. shortage is too severe to address
simply with money. Carl Shusterman, an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles, says
he has 100 hospital clients that have 100 vacancies apiece. With two- to
three-year waiting lists to get into nurse-training programs in the United
States, pressure to import nurses won’t abate, he says, adding, “Even if we
could train more nurses and pay them more, we’d still need to import them.”

Raising pay has successfully attracted nurses in the past,
however. To remedy a shortage that developed in the late 1990s, hospitals
started hiking wages in 2001—and added 186,500 nurses from 2001 to 2003. Some
advocates draw a direct link between wages and recruiting. A 2006 study by the
Institute for Women’s Policy Research concluded, “Increasing pay for nurses is
the most direct way to draw both currently qualified and aspiring nurses to
hospital employment.”

While nurses’ advocates say better pay is critical, they
also argue that working conditions must improve if the United States is to
cultivate an enduring nursing workforce. “You will draw in some people with a
good pay raise, but you won’t necessarily get them to stay,” says Cheryl
Johnson, a registered nurse and president of the United Association of Nurses,
the largest nurses’ union in the United States. “Almost every nurse will tell
you that staffing is a critical problem. The workload is so great that there’s
not time to see how [patients are] breathing, give them water, or turn them to
prevent bedsores. The guilt can be unbearable.”

Whatever mix of better wages, better working conditions,
and foreign workers hospitals employ, solving the nursing shortage in the long
run will require solutions on several fronts. “Nurses are getting more
organized, but major change isn’t going to happen overnight,” says Suzanne
Martin, a spokeswoman for the United Association of Nurses, noting that other
groups “would prefer to keep things as they are.”

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