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Nursing Shortage or Shortage of Nursing Care?

By Lisa Schulmeister, RN, MN, APRN-BC, OCN, FAAN
The National Public Radio’s (NPR) health blog called “Shots” recently reported the results of a survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health ( The reporter stated that “hundreds of responses” were received in response to questions, about hospital care, that were posted on Facebook.

The survey found that for people who had recently been hospitalized overnight, 51%, were "very" satisfied with their care and 32% were "somewhat" satisfied. However, of those respondents, 34% also said that "nurses weren't available when needed or didn't respond quickly to requests for help."

In the blog, there is a quote from Linda Aiken, PhD, RN, a professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing who is recognized as one of the leading authorities on the nursing workforce. Her response to the survey finding was, “There's not an actual nursing shortage. There's a shortage of nursing care in hospitals and other health care facilities."

Her response reflects the disconnect between the number of RNs available to work and the number who are actually working. Employers generally seek experienced RNs and are reluctant to hire new grads and RNs without a substantial amount of experience. This of course creates the dilemma of how a new grad can obtain experience if employers are mostly seeking experienced RNs. Hopefully this trend to hire the experienced will change, and a corresponding increase in both nursing numbers and nursing care will occur.
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