News Releases

US Shortage of Nurses Expected to Hit One Million by 2015

November 8, 2005

Suzanne Gordon to discuss the problems and solutions at the University of Maryland School of Nursing on November 15th

Baltimore, MD - The University of Maryland School of Nursing, which consistently ranks among the top 10 nursing schools in the nation, will host award winning journalist Suzanne Gordon for a lecture as part of their celebration of the opening of the School of Nursing's Center of Excellence in Occupational and Environmental Health and Justice. Gordon will be speaking about the tremendous national challenge involved in retaining and recruiting nurses. She will offer innovative and often controversial suggestions about how to alleviate this crisis.

This lecture comes at a time when hospitals across the nation are dangerously short of experienced nurses. The University of Maryland Center for Health Workforce Development projects there will be a supply shortage of nearly 13,000 nurses by 2010 in Maryland, and a shortage of one million nurses nationally by the year 2015.

"Poor working conditions have led to this shortage of experienced nurses. Recent research at the Nursing School's Center of Occupational Health and Justice shows that many nurses are frequently forced into a 'perfect storm' of 12 hour plus days and nights, with rotating shifts, combined with constantly being on call, and high patient loads, without time for rest and recovery," remarked Jeffrey Johnson, PhD - Professor at the School and involved with the Center of Excellence. "These are just the kinds of conditions," Center researchers note, "that result in stress, fatigue and increased wear and tear to nurses - making it even harder to retain experienced nurses and recruit new nurses. Additionally, research clearly demonstrates that long work hours for nurses has a direct impact on patient complications and patient mortality."

Further fueling the shortage is the high stress work environment that nurses are forced to work in. Surveys of nurses consistently show that up to 41% of hospital nurses are dissatisfied with their jobs, and 22% plan to leave them in less than one year (among nurses younger than 30, this figure is 33%). Disrespectful and even disruptive behavior by physicians strongly impacts job satisfaction and morale among nurses. Although nurses have an enormous amount of responsibility for the well-being of patients, they generally lack power and authority in their work setting. Researchers at the Center of Excellence have shown that lack of decision-making authority at work is a major source of work stress for all workers that can lead to serious mental and physical health problems including back injuries and heart disease. .

Gordon's critique of the nursing shortage also focuses on the way nurses have been unfairly portrayed by the media. The public doesn't understand that more than 90% of the decisions and activities that affect patient care are not up to physicians but are completely in the hands of nurses. Whether you live or die in a hospital setting can be determined by the quality of care given by your nurses, according to Gordon.

Gordon's lecture will address many of the critical steps we need to take to change the odds to be more in favor of nurses and their patients. Adjusting nursing work hours, giving nurses more authority over their practice in the hospitals, and improving doctor-nurse relationships top the list of changes that need to be made. Gordon will also discuss controversial subjects like staff ratios and the unionizing of nursing.

Gordon's work fits in perfectly with much of the research done by the School's Center of Occupational Health and Justice. Both Gordon and the Center are working to achieve occupational justice for nurses by striving to transform their work environment and to improve the outlook for the profession of nursing throughout the United States.

Gordon will be speaking at the University of Maryland's School of Nursing, located at 655 West Lombard Street in Baltimore on Tuesday, November 15th, at 4pm. She will be available for interviews on Monday, November 14 and Tuesday, November 15. For more information, call the Office of Professional Development and Continuing Education at 410-706-3767. Registration is required for this lecture, along with a $40 fee.

Suzanne Gordon is an award-winning journalist and author. She has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic Monthly, the American Prospect, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and others. She's the author of five books including Life Support: Three Nurses on the Front Lines (Little Brown & Co.); and co-editor of three books and co-author of From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public. Her new book, on the nursing crisis - Nursing Against the Odds: How Health Care Cost Cutting, Media Stereotypes, and Medical Hubris Undermine Nurses and Patient Care - was published in May by Cornell University Press as part of its series on The Culture and Politics of Health Care Work.