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Impact of Nursing Shortage on Patient Safety

The shortage of healthcare staffing is one of America’s greatest public health crises. With the number of registered nurses projected to fall short by an additional one million in the next 10 years, it’s clear that this isn’t going away any time soon. And it’s having far-reaching effects on patient safety.  

While we can expect patient care to suffer as demand continues to exceed supply, PRS Global has developed a solution to this problem that will help hospitals recruit and retain the best nurses for their facilities. Learn more about the impact of nursing shortage on patient safety in this article. 

What the Nursing Landscape Looks Like Today  

The US faces an acute shortage of registered nurses with fewer nurses per capita than any other country in the world. Even though there has been a slight increase in the number of RNs over the past few years, it still falls far short of meeting the demand.  

Here are the demand projections according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published report: 

  • From 2019 to 2029, the need for new Registered Nurses (RNs) will rise by 7%. That is 4% more than the projected rise in all other occupations. The need for new nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners will rise by 45%.  
  • In order to keep up with the retirement rate and standard demand, there’s a need to employ an additional 203,700 new RNs each year until 2026. 

In another article published by the American Nurses Association, it was projected that there are more than 500,000 seasoned nurses scheduled to retire before the year ends. The healthcare industry needs 1.1 million new registered nurses to expand and replace the number of retirees in order to avoid any adverse impact of nursing shortage on patient care. 


The Challenges 

There are many contributing factors to the healthcare staffing shortage and it’s proving to be an extremely complex problem to figure out and solve. For one, the number of patients with chronic conditions that require nurses that can provide geriatric care is steadily increasing as the US population ages. And by 2030, people aged 65 and older will outnumber those aged 18 and younger for the first time according to the US Census Bureau. 

On top of that, there are just not enough nurses produced by nursing schools to keep up with the demand. This is due to the inability of US nursing schools to acquire and provide sufficient clinical sites, faculty and staff members, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget. 

Finally, as the general population grows old, so do the nurses. The average age of active nurses is 50 years old, nearing retirement. With the burnout that the shortage causes, more and more nurses are considering early retirement or simply quitting.  


The Shortage of Nurses’ Impact on Healthcare Organizations 

The reality is that this shortage could have disastrous consequences for both healthcare providers and patients alike as a skilled nursing staff is increasingly stretched to their limits and face burnout at alarming rates due to a combination of inadequate staffing levels and long hours on the job. 

Edith Cowan University reported that:  

  • When there is a significant gap in the number of patients and nurses, mortality rates are affected.   
  • Patients take more time to heal and recover when there are fewer nurses to care for them. 
  • The number of unit-specific complications that may occur such as bleeding, infection, and others are affected by the number of nurses available on staff.  
  • Patient safety issues can arise as a result of the burnout that nurses go through.  

Additionally, the shortage of nurses has put a significant financial strain on health care organizations. In order to recruit nurses, healthcare facilities are made to pay higher salaries as well as offer bonuses and enhanced benefits. Also, needing nurses to work longer shifts means paying overtime. All of these factors affect profit margin.   


The Link Between Nursing Shortage and Patient Safety 

Nurse staffing remains one of our most important public policy issues, given its crucial role in patient safety. Nurses are in the best position to initiate actions that minimize adverse events and negative outcomes for patients. Understaffing can lead to:  

  • Decreased quality of care 

Eastern Michigan University study found that when there aren’t enough nurses in a healthcare facility, the same amount of work falls on the current workforce. These nurses naturally end up working longer hours. And nurses who work longer shifts can make more errors that affect the quality of care.  

  • Decreased patient satisfaction 

According to a study cited by the British Medical Journal, negative perceptions of hospital care are associated with missed nursing care, which is a direct result of a staffing problem. When patients observe nurses give out rushed explanations on medications and see no coordination with other staff, they lose confidence in the care they receive.   

  • Higher risk of failing to prevent negative outcomes 

According to the same Eastern Michigan University study, on top of a higher in-hospital mortality rate, understaffed facilities also have a higher risk of infection, a rise in post-operative complications, and a larger number of falls. Overworked nurses suffer from fatigue or burnout which can impair their ability to make fast and sound medical assessments. This can ultimately lead to medical errors, lack of patient engagement, and missed nursing care. 

  • Overcrowded emergency departments 

When there are fewer nurses to provide care and handle administrative tasks, patients needing immediate attention have no choice but to wait. Cross-transmission of diseases and contamination is proven to occur when patients are all crowded together and are not attended to immediately according to an article by the National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information.   

  • Additional medication administration errors 

Nurses who are overworked can make grave errors in the administration of prescribed medication due to the sheer volume of tasks they handle daily. This is easily preventable when there is a balanced nurse-to-patient ratio in hospitals.  

Hospitals are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain safe staffing levels, which is leading to preventable harm occurring. This problem can have devastating consequences for patients who are already dealing with serious illnesses or injuries—and for hospitals that have to deal with costly lawsuits as a result.  


PRS Can Help You Reduce The Impact of Nursing Shortage on Patient Safety 

By getting help from a trusted, innovative, and reliable staffing agency, healthcare providers can transform a stressed, overworked, and thinning workforce into a lively, nurturing, and growing one. PRS Global is committed to its mission to transform lives by providing American healthcare providers the support and staffing they need.  

PRS is a global staffing agency that specializes in staffing and recruiting international travel nurses. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), international nurses have become agents of economic change by entering the international labor market and participating in global wealth distribution.  

Utilizing global talent is invaluable to your recruitment efforts. International travel nurses provide assurance with contracts that span from 12-36 months per assignment. This enables healthcare facilities to provide consistent and high-quality care for patients.  



We at PRS Global have made it our mission to build bridges that connect American healthcare providers to international travel nurses. We aim to help your organization provide people with access to healthcare without barriers.  

Through our premier global sourcing and placement of nursing staff, we are committed to creating the solution for the nurse staffing crisis that’s tormenting the US healthcare system today. Together, let’s make sure that health care organizations and hospitals have highly trained, competent, committed, ethical, and compassionate registered nurses at all times.  

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