• nursing shortage;
  • solutions;
  • job satisfaction;
  • integrative review;
  • education;
  • recruitment;
  • retention;
  • image;
  • students;
  • ageing RN workforce

Aim.  The aims of this paper are to review the literature to determine what factors are contributing to the nursing shortage in the United States of America (USA) and discuss possible solutions to this current and future nursing shortage.

Background.  The need for nurses is often depicted as cyclical in nature. Throughout history, the USA has experienced a series of nursing surpluses and shortages. However, the current shortage has been characterized as being unlike those experienced in the past. Trends of an ageing Registered Nurse (RN) workforce and limited supply to fill the impending vacancies are some of the unique aspects that bring a new dimension to an old problem. Today's nursing shortage will not be resolved by simply returning to the solutions of yesteryear, and strategies to reduce its impact will have to be more creative and focus on the long-term.

Methods.  Integrative literature review of published literature on the current nursing shortage in the USA from 1999 to 2001.

Discussion.  Four main areas were identified as the major contributors to the nursing shortage in the USA: the ageing RN workforce; declining enrolment; the changing work climate; and the poor image of nursing. Solutions to the shortage followed similar themes to the contributing factors and encompassed four main areas: exploring recruitment efforts; exploring retainment efforts; improving the image of nursing; and supporting legislation that helps to rectify the shortage.

Conclusion.  There is firm evidence that the USA amidst a nursing shortage. Much is known about the many contributing factors but now nurses need to become proactive to help secure the future of their workforce. By forming partnerships within the profession and with other influential parties, nurses can be in the forefront of resolving their workforce issues.