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AFSCME’s Recommendations for Action

This report documents that there is no shortage of nurses but rather a shortage of nurses willing to work under current employment conditions. The so-called nursing shortage is more than a "pipeline" issue. Activity at the state and federal level aims to attract young people into schools of nursing. While these efforts are well intentioned, simply recruiting more nurses into the pipeline will not increase the supply of nurses as long as great numbers of nurses continue to exit the profession. We must focus on retaining and recouping nurses, which means addressing the conditions under which nurses work. We call on those with a stake in the issue to work together to foster necessary changes in our health care system.

AFSCME calls for the following improvements in the health care work environment to help nurses provide their patients with safe nursing care:

  • Require hospitals and other health care facilities to implement staffing ratios that set a maximum number of patients per nurse and to adopt staffing plans developed with the participation of nurses as equal partners.
  • Prohibit mandatory overtime to ensure that nurses have the rest they need to provide quality patient care and provide nurses with flexible scheduling options.
  • Increase access to internal and external education.
  • Create opportunities for promotion and advancement, including building career ladders, with commensurate salary increases.
  • Provide adequate support staff and equipment, such as computerized prescription drug dispensing, safer needle systems, and lifting devices.
  • Coordinate and simplify paperwork.
  • Support the efforts of nurses to organize and represent themselves through collective bargaining so they can improve their pay and benefits, and have a voice in creating a workplace that is healthy for themselves and their patients.