Trends in the Experiences of Hospital-Employed Registered Nurses: Results From Three National Surveys

Peter I. Buerhaus, PhD, RN, FAAN; Karen Donelan, ScD; Beth T. Ulrich, EdD, RN, FACHE, FAAN; Catherine Desroches, Dr.P.H.; Robert Dittus, MD, MPH


Nurs Econ. 2007;25(2):69-79. 

In This Article

Impact of Nursing Shortage

Nursing Practice and Hospital Capacity

RNs were asked if, as a result of the nursing shortage in hospitals, they had observed an increase, decrease, or no difference in the eight areas shown in Table 8 . With the exception of an increase in the "workload on physicians," significantly fewer RNs in 2006 than in 2004 perceived an increase in the remaining seven indicators reflecting nursing practice and hospital capacity. Despite this improvement, over half of RNs still perceived the shortage had impacted nurses, patients, and hospitals by increasing: "nurses' delayed responses to pages or calls," "staff communication problems," "patients' complaints about nursing care," "patients' wait time for surgery or tests," "workload on physicians," and a "reduction in the number of available beds" (2004, only) and "delayed discharges." In the 2006 survey, the least impacted areas affected by the current nursing shortage (reported by less than half of RNs) involved a "reduction in the number of available beds" and "discontinued or closed patient care programs."

To further assess the impact of the current nursing shortage, we asked RNs how much of a problem ("major problem," "minor problem," or "no problem)" the shortage has been on six aspects of nursing practice. Figure 2, which shows only the response category "major problem," reveals that, across the three surveys, a large proportion of RNs (ranging from 49%-93%) perceived the shortage has been a major problem for all of the aspects of nursing practice assessed. Nevertheless, over the time covered by the three surveys, significantly fewer RNs perceived the shortage had been a major problem for five aspects of nursing care: the "early detection of patient complications," "nurses' ability to maintain patient safety," "quality of patient care," "quality of nurses' own work life," and the "time RNs have to spend with patients."

Figure 2.

Percent of Hospital-Employed Registered Nurses who Perceive the Shortage Has Been a Major Problem on Nurses´ Practice in 2002, 2004, and 2006


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