1. Shaver, Joan PhD, RN, FAAN

Article Content

Registered nurses (RNs) have been managing cyclical shortages of nurses for 50 years. However, the current and projected shortage over the next 15 years will be more enduring and much more critical. According to the 2002 report by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services, 30 states in 2000 reported a shortage of nurses, with this number expected to include 44 states by 2020.1


The health policy arena includes many stakeholders, complex data, and diverse policy options. Historically, nurses and nursing issues were not integral to health policy discussions. Although much has changed in recent years, we are often enlisted as resource experts only after the agenda setting process has started. I contend that we have more to offer in the search for solutions to wide-ranging healthcare issues.


The College of Nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago, especially over the last 8 years, has facilitated forums for dialogue between traditionally disparate experts. These forums allow multidisciplinary scholars and collaborators to synthesize and apply empirical-based knowledge to define core issues and formulate aligned health policy. Our broad-based, academic partnerships have resulted in publications, invited congressional testimony, funded research, and advisory input to elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels.


The following 4 articles stem from the recent conference "Causes and Consequences of the Nurse Shortage: Developing a Solution in Illinois." At the conference, participants addressed some of the most difficult challenges confronting nursing leaders in the current climate of labor shortages, staffing crises, and economic restraints. It was a generative opportunity to hear from some top nurse leaders as well as economists, physicians, insurers, and lobbyists. The more data, advocacy, and support for nursing and healthcare that we create through our profession, the more political influence we will be afforded.


As you read these articles, I challenge you to glean ideas that will help you effectively advocate for vastly improved care systems for patients, as well as manage, recruit, and retain a strong and viable nursing work force. Now, more than ever, we need multiple partners and allies to influence the delivery of care in a vulnerable US healthcare system and ameliorate the overriding potential of adverse patient outcomes related to an inadequate nursing work force.




1. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Bureau of Health Professions. Projected supply, demand and shortages of registered nurses: 2000-2020. July 2002. Available at: Accessed September 7, 2004. [Context Link]