: Case Study—Shortage of Nurses
Readthe Businessweek Case: A Critical Shortage of Nurses;
- In 1-2 paragraphs, summarizethe case and your research that relates to the case.
- Based on your research, explainat least three trends which you believe are contributing to the nursingshortage. Justify your response.
- Based on your research, explainat least three HR trends and practices which might help hospitals recruitand retain enough nurses. Justify your response.
- Explain the skills andknowledge an HR Manager needs in a hospital and how these skills andknowledge can be used to help attract and retain nurses.
Writea 3-page paper in Word format. Apply current APA standards for writing style toyour work. Utilize at least three outside resources, one of which may be yourtext book, in formulating your response.
TheUnited States is facing a severe nursing shortage. Already, an estimated 8.5percent of U.S. nursing positions are unfilled—and some expect that number totriple by 2020 as 80 million baby boomers retire and expand the ranks of thoseneeding care. Hospital administrators and nurses’ advocates have declared astaffing crisis as the nursing shortage hits its 10th year.
So why aren’t nurses paid more? Wages for registered nursesrose just 1.34 percent from 2006 to 2007, trailing well behind inflation. Theanswer is complicated, influenced by hospital cost controls and insurancecompany reimbursement policies. But another factor is often overlooked: Hugenumbers of nurses are brought into the United States from abroad every year. Inrecent years nearly a third of the RNs joining the U.S. workforce were born inother countries.
Critics say this is a short-term solution that could createlong-term problems. The influx of non-U.S. nurses allows hospitals to fillpositions at low salaries. But it prevents the sharp wage hike that wouldencourage Americans to enter the field, which could solve the nursing shortagein the years ahead. “Better pay would signify to society that nursing is a promisingcareer,” 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 labormarkets can change with globalization. With new technology and the increasingmovement of workers, labor markets are no longer local or even national. Supplyand demand don’t work quite as they did in the past. Shortages in one marketaren’t corrected with higher prices if supply comes from another.
Pay isn’t the only issue. Difficult working conditions andunderstaffing also deter qualified people from pursuing the profession. Butaverage annual wages for registered nurses (one of the most highly trainedcategories) is now just under $58,000 a year, compared with a $36,300 averagefor U.S. workers overall. And it’s clear that qualified American nurses seethat as not enough: 500,000 registered nurses are not practicing theirprofession—one-fifth of the current RN workforce of 2.5 million and enough tofill current vacancies twice over.
Hospitals insist the U.S. shortage is too severe to addresssimply with money. Carl Shusterman, an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles, sayshe has 100 hospital clients that have 100 vacancies apiece. With two- tothree-year waiting lists to get into nurse-training programs in the UnitedStates, pressure to import nurses won’t abate, he says, adding, “Even if wecould 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, hospitalsstarted hiking wages in 2001—and added 186,500 nurses from 2001 to 2003. Someadvocates draw a direct link between wages and recruiting. A 2006 study by theInstitute for Women’s Policy Research concluded, “Increasing pay for nurses isthe most direct way to draw both currently qualified and aspiring nurses tohospital employment.”
While nurses’ advocates say better pay is critical, theyalso argue that working conditions must improve if the United States is tocultivate an enduring nursing workforce. “You will draw in some people with agood pay raise, but you won’t necessarily get them to stay,” says CherylJohnson, a registered nurse and president of the United Association of Nurses,the largest nurses’ union in the United States. “Almost every nurse will tellyou that staffing is a critical problem. The workload is so great that there’snot time to see how [patients are] breathing, give them water, or turn them toprevent 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 longrun will require solutions on several fronts. “Nurses are getting moreorganized, but major change isn’t going to happen overnight,” says SuzanneMartin, a spokeswoman for the United Association of Nurses, noting that othergroups “would prefer to keep things as they are.”