Global nursing shortages

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7340.751 (Published 30 March 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:751

Are often a symptom of wider health system or societal ailments

  1. James Buchan, professor, social science and health care (jbuchan@qmuc.ac.uk)
  1. Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh EH12 8TS

    In October 2001 government chief nurses and other delegates from 66 countries met to discuss how best to deal with a common challenge—the global growth of nursing shortages.1 Nursing shortages in the United Kingdom and elsewhere have been a repetitive phenomenon, usually due to an increasing demand for nurses outstripping static or a more slowly growing supply.2 This time the situation is more serious. Demand continues to grow, while projections for supply point to actual reductions in the availability of nurses in some developed and developing countries. Some health systems are also coping with the legacy of ill conceived reform projects of the 1990s, which demotivated and disenfranchised nurses and other staff.

    Developed countries are facing a demographic double whammy. The United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and other countries have an ageing nursing workforce, caring for increasing numbers of elderly people.35 The challenge is how to replace the many nurses who will retire over the decade. Some countries also have to cope …

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