Center to Champion Nursing to Address Projected Workforce Shortage

    • December 5, 2007

With nearly 3 million registered nurses, nursing is the largest health profession in the United States. Yet the country is facing a prolonged nursing shortage that threatens to undermine the care provided to patients. Decline in federal support, state interest and local capacity has left the nation without an adequate supply of nurses to fill a growing number of vacancies.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced an effort to address the 1.1-million nurse workforce shortage crisis that is currently poised to strike America's health care system by 2020. Improving the quality of nursing care is integral to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's mission to improve the health and health care of all Americans. The Foundation is committed to reducing the shortage in nurse staffing and improving the quality of hospital care by transforming the way care is delivered at the bedside.

The newly created Center to Champion Nursing in America will work to improve patient care by pressing for:

  • Greater state and federal funding to support expanded nursing education, particularly addressing severe faculty shortages at nurse training institutions across the country.
  • Places for nurse leaders on the governing boards of hospitals and other health care organizations to provide critically needed perspective on improving quality and safety of care.
  • Education, awareness and dissemination of research to inform the public and policy-makers about nurse workforce issues and the link between a trained and adequate nursing workforce and high quality health care.

A public opinion study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health explored Americans' perceptions of the quality of hospital care and their knowledge of the nursing shortage. The availability of nurses was indicated as one of the top three factors contributing to poor-quality health care in hospitals. Two-thirds of those surveyed blamed poor quality on overworked, stressed or fatigued nurses.

Americans consider nursing a vital component of quality health care, and the importance of nursing to patients and to health care can hardly be overstated. Nurses care for patients in virtually all locations in which health care is given-hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory care settings (such as clinics or physicians' offices), schools, employee workspaces, and private homes. Studies have shown that higher, more adequate levels of hospital nurse staffing result in fewer patients with pneumonia, fewer pressure ulcers, and fewer heart attacks, as well as lower risk of surgical patients dying within their first 30 days in the hospital.