The nursing shortage has reached dire proportions and more needs to be done to ensure the United States has the nurses we need to care for the public, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Nurses Association (ANA) said in a September 2021 letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging the agency to declare the shortage a national crisis and to take action against it.

“The nation’s healthcare delivery systems are overwhelmed, and nurses are tired and frustrated as this persistent pandemic rages on with no end in sight,” ANA President Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, said. “Nurses alone cannot solve this longstanding issue and it is not our burden to carry.”

In the letter to HHS, ANA credited nurses as “remaining steadfast on the front lines since the beginning of the pandemic, while overcoming challenges, risks to their personal health and safety, and the physical, emotional, and mental health burden of the COVID-19 virus.” ANA said that the organization is concerned that the shortage will have long-term repercussions for the profession and healthcare delivery system.

In the letter, ANA recommended that HHS confront the nurse staffing shortage crisis by:

  • Addressing the current fatigue and mental well-being of nurses
  • Developing strategies to retain the nursing workforce
  • Working with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to adopt new payment methodologies that recognize the value that nurses bring to patient care
  • Removing barriers to nursing practice
  • Addressing the persistent barriers that limit the number of qualified nursing students that can be educated each year
  • Building and maintaining a resilient workforce to meet our country’s current and future healthcare needs

ONS endorsed ANA’s recommendations to HHS and is advocating for federal government officials and organizations to determine nurse staffing solutions for the future. The ONS Nurse Well-Being Learning Library has resources to help nurses focus on their well-being during the pandemic and beyond, complete with digital downloads, well-being activities, learning tools, and more.