American Nurses Association Calls On HHS, Names Nursing Shortage a National Crisis


The ANA has issued a statement to the HHS imploring them to declare a national crisis.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) issued a statement to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s secretary, Xavier Becerra, imploring the agency to declare the current nurse staffing shortage a national crisis, and to take concrete action to provide relief for nursing professionals. 1

“The nation’s health care delivery systems are overwhelmed, and nurses are tired and frustrated as this persistent pandemic rages on with no end in sight. Nurses alone cannot solve this longstanding issue and it is not our burden to carry,” said Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, president of the ANA. “If we truly value the immeasurable contributions of the nursing workforce, then it is imperative that HHS utilize all available authorities to address this issue.”

Of note, in a comprehensive survey conducted on ANA’s website that received over 22,000 responses from nurses nationwide, 18% of nurses voted that they intended to leave their current position in the next 6 months, while 21% listed themselves as “undecided.” Among those that are choosing to leave, 47% cite their reason as “work is negatively affecting my health/mental well-being.”

Furthermore, between a ranking of 0 as “not good at all” and 10 as “very good,” the average overall wellbeing of nurses was a 5.7, the average nurse’s level of optimism regarding the future was a 6.2 out of 10.

In addition, 24% of nurses sought out professional help to support their mental health in the past year. Of the 76% that did not seek out professional services, only half responded by saying they did not feel they needed mental health support. Among the other half, the most common reasons to not seek out professional services was the feeling that the nurse should handle their stress on their own, a lack of time, and a lack of financial resources.

In a more specific pooling of the results, the survey showed that among oncology nurses, the number of responders who sought out professional mental support was even higher, at 37%. Among those who did not seek out help and felt they did not require support; a lack of time was the most popular reason to do so.

At the time of the survey, 65% of oncology nurses reported feeling exhausted and 64% reported feeling overwhelmed.

"Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Oncology Nursing Society was hearing about staff shortages in some organizations," shared Brenda Nevidjon, MSN, RN, FAAN, CEO, ONS, in an official statement to Oncology Nursing News, regarding the shortage. "Although regional and specific to certain roles then, the pandemic has exacerbated shortages across the country including in oncology. Some nurses are leaving the profession or retiring. Others are leaving their employer and more organizations are offering sign-on bonuses."

In order to comply with ANA’s call to action, the association made the following recommendations:

  • Convene stakeholders to identify short- and long-term solutions to staffing challenges to face the demand of the COVID-19 pandemic response, ensure the nation’s health care delivery system is best equipped to provide quality care for patients, and prepare for future challenges.
  • Work with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on methodologies and approaches to promote payment equity for nursing services and remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to APRN practice.
  • Educate the nation on the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine to provide resources for widespread administration of it, as well as any subsequent boosters.
  • Sustain a nursing workforce that meets current and future staffing demands to ensure access to care for patients and prioritize the mental health of nurses and other health professionals.
  • Provide additional resources including recruitment and retention incentives that will attract students to the nursing profession and retain skilled nurses to the demands of patient care.

“ANA stands ready to work with HHS and other stakeholders on a whole of government approach to ensure we have a strong nursing workforce today and in the future,” Grant concluded. “Our nation must have a robust nursing workforce at peak health and wellness to administer COVID-19 vaccines, educate communities, and provide safe patient care for millions of Americans. We cannot be a healthy nation until we commit to address underlying, chronic nursing workforce challenges that have persisted for decades."


  1. ANA Urges US Department of Health and Human Services to declare nurse staffing shortage a national crisis. ANA. September 1, 2021. Accessed September 2, 2021.
  2. Year one COVID-19 impact assessment survey. ANA. Accessed September 2, 2021.

Updated September 28, 2021

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