National Nursing Workforce Survey Calls for Change as Non-Negotiable

New report offers guidance for healthcare leaders to address nursing shortage and improve retention as 92% of respondents suggest nurse labor shortage will get worse

WALTHAM, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A lack of action to better support our nation’s nurses amid a global pandemic could exacerbate the current staffing crisis, according to new research published by Wolters Kluwer in partnership with UKG. “Nursing’s Wake-up Call: Change is Now Non-Negotiable” assesses current and future states of nursing labor models, offering a snapshot of how nurse staffing and care delivery models have evolved to address the profound challenges brought on by COVID-19 and an intensifying labor shortage. The survey of more than 300 nurse leaders in the United States was conducted in late 2021 and sheds light on opportunities for change across care settings to correct course and ensure the best care for patients.

Survey results point to disconnects between what nurse leaders see as short- and long-term challenges and the strategies their organizations currently have in place or planned to respond to today’s nursing crisis. The survey found that potential levers for change include staffing levels, workforce flexibility and resiliency, and technology implementation to optimize productivity. By taking a more active role in understanding the challenges on the frontlines to inform future strategies, nurse leaders can help change the current trajectory while improving workplace satisfaction and the quality of care delivered.

Specific findings across care settings include:

The nursing labor shortage is going to get worse: 92% of respondents predict they will be short of budgeted headcount over the next 18 months.

Leaders face challenges with both retention and recruitment: 58% of respondents do not expect to bring in additional staff or new roles due to financial constraints and are focused on how to retain their current workforce.

Adoption of alternative care models is slow. Acute and ambulatory settings have been slow to embrace new models of care, but success with float pools during the pandemic is an opportunity for expansion: 92% of respondents in the acute setting plan to expand or establish float pools in the next 18 months.

Flexibility for nurses is still lacking. Despite widely reported burnout, respondents generally expect few changes in shift duration after the pandemic with the average shift remaining 12 hours for nurses in acute and post-acute settings and 8-hour shifts in ambulatory settings.

Staffing processes are still largely manual. 75% of respondents use staffing technology in some capacity, but day-to-day staffing is often handled manually.

“Dramatic action to support our nurses is long overdue. Experts have forecast nursing shortages for years, but few could have predicted the impact that COVID-19 would have on this workforce,” said Anne Dabrow Woods, DNP, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC, AGACNP-BC, FAAN, Chief Nurse of Wolters Kluwer, Health, Learning, Research and Practice. “To ensure the best care is delivered to all patients across care settings, healthcare organizations need to rethink care models to achieve greater agility within the nursing workforce. Nurses can’t do more, so we need to ensure we’re doing more to make care delivery models sustainable.”

In addition to survey results, the report offers solutions to widespread staffing challenges. While adoption has been slow, alternative care models and cross-training nurses to work across care units are strategies hospitals can deploy now. Team-based models utilizing unlicensed assistive personnel (UAPs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and less experienced RNs provide the flexibility to scale and retract depending on patient load, empowering nurses to practice at the top of their license. To improve work–life balance for nurses, healthcare organizations may also consider offering flexible shift options that are not regimented into 12-hour shifts.

“Nurse staffing has become increasingly complicated. Investments in people and technology can make workforce decisions more efficient, effective, and equitable,” said Nanne M. Finis, RN, MS, Chief Nurse Executive at UKG, a leading provider of HR, payroll, and workforce management solutions for all people. “Ending reliance on manual staffing processes is the first step to fostering resilience among nurses and reducing burnout. Systems that are both easy to use and make people’s lives easier are the key to driving adoption among staff who have become all too comfortable with the status quo.”

Month-over-month data reported by the UKG Workforce Activity Report reveals a combination of lackluster growth and signs of struggle for shift work in the healthcare industry since March 2020. Pressure to effectively utilize nursing staff has never been greater.

“There are immense implications of inaction in the face of today’s talent crisis, and ‘quick fix’ solutions largely employed today will not be enough to manage these staffing challenges long-term,” said Finis.

Anne Dabrow Woods and Nanne Finis will be presenting the findings of the survey at the AONL 2022 Conference during a seminar on Wednesday April 13th at 7:00am. Wolters Kluwer will be exhibiting at Booth #1109 and UKG at Booth #1125.

Report Methodology

The qualitative and quantitative survey was conducted online from September to October 2021 and provides U.S. respondents’ views of pre-pandemic and post-pandemic staffing trends. Respondents had to be involved in the creation or management of their organizations’ nursing labor and staffing models. All respondents were chief nursing officers (8%), nursing directors (35%), administrators (11%), nurse managers (22%), and other nurse leaders across acute care, post-acute care, and ambulatory care settings.

About Wolters Kluwer

Wolters Kluwer (WKL) is a global leader in professional information, software solutions, and services for the clinicians, nurses, accountants, lawyers, and tax, finance, audit, risk, compliance, and regulatory sectors. We help our customers make critical decisions every day by providing expert solutions that combine deep domain knowledge with advanced technology and services.

Wolters Kluwer reported 2021 annual revenues of €4.8 billion. The group serves customers in over 180 countries, maintains operations in over 40 countries, and employs approximately 19,800 people worldwide. The company is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands.

Wolters Kluwer provides trusted clinical technology and evidence-based solutions that engage clinicians, patients, researchers and students in effective decision-making and outcomes across healthcare. We support clinical effectiveness, learning and research, clinical surveillance and compliance, as well as data solutions. For more information about our solutions, visit and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter @WKHealth.

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About UKG

At UKG, our purpose is people. As strong believers in the power of culture and belonging as the secret to success, we champion great workplaces and build lifelong partnerships with our customers to show what’s possible when businesses invest in their people. Born from a historic merger that created one of the world’s leading HCM cloud companies, our unique Life-work Technology approach to HR, payroll, and workforce management solutions for all people helps 50,000 organizations around the globe across every industry anticipate and adapt to their employees’ needs beyond just work. To learn more, visit


André Rebelo

Sr. Global Public Relations Manager

Wolters Kluwer Health

+1 (781) 392-2411