Pediatric Nursing Shortage Essay

The Society of Pediatric Nurses (SPN) has been instrumental in advocating for high quality, culturally sensitive, and comprehensive care for children and families. The healthcare needs of pediatric patients present unique challenges due to different developmental stages, limited communication skills, and differences in epidemiology and approaches to treatment as compared to adults. Nurse staffing is a focus of major concern because of the impact of staffing patterns on patient safety and quality of care. The advent of managed care, shortened hospital stays, and public reporting of quality measures demand that healthcare organizations objectively define and assess the quality of care delivered to children and families. Registered Nurses are the primary caregivers within the healthcare setting and are the essential link in assisting patients and families with navigating and humanizing a highly technical and impersonal healthcare system. An organization’s commitment to high quality pediatric care is dependent upon appropriate staffing levels with adequately prepared nurses and the implementation of collaborative, evidence-based practice (Schwalenstocker, Bisarya, Lau, & Adebimpe, 2007).

In 2007, members of the Public Policy Committee developed the Safe Staffing Position Statement. This document outlined recommendations for safe and effective nursing care for children and their families. The position statement was recently updated and is intended to serve as the framework to assist organizations providing care to children in the implementation of evidenced based staffing plans to promote high-quality care. It is imperative that schools of nursing, healthcare institutions and pediatric nurses utilize this document as a resource to ensure that appropriate education, training, resources and effective staffing plans are provided to ensure the provision of safe, quality, customer focused care to pediatric patients and their families.

Problem Statement

Following a Congressional request in 1993 for the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to study the adequacy of nurse staffing in hospitals and nursing homes, a 1996 IOM report recognized the importance of determining the appropriate nurse-patient ratios and distribution of skills to ensure patients receive quality care. A September 1999 IOM report first called the public’s attention to the problem of increased patient morbidity and mortality related to errors occurring within healthcare delivery systems. Since that time there has been a growing emphasis on patient safety, process improvement and the potential effects of adequate staffing.

Rationale and Supporting Information

Research has continued to show the association between nursing staffing and improved patient outcomes (Aiken, et al, 2010; Kane, et al, 2007; Needleman, et al, 2006; Stanton, 2004; American Organization of Nurse Executives, 2003; Aiken, et al, 2002). In 2007 the Child Health Corporation of America is association with the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI) and Medical Management Planning/BENCHmarking Effort for Networking Children’s Hospitals found increased nurse staffing was associated with improved patient/family experience with care and a reduced incidence of adverse outcomes. NACHRI also reported that The Joint Commission found staffing levels had been a critical factor in 20 percent of sentinel events occurring over a ten year period from 19952005 (Schwalenstocker, Bisarya, Lau & Adebimpe, 2007). Stratton (2008) found a reduction in the rate of pediatric central line blood stream infections with an increase in nursing staffing hours.

Research conducted by Mark, Harless and Berman (2007) showed a statistically significant reduction in postoperative cardiopulmonary complications, pneumonia and infections in the pediatric population with increased RN staffing. In addition, nurse staffing levels have also been found to be a critical determinant of nurse job satisfaction (American Organization of Nurse Executives, 2003). During the 108th Session of Congress (2003-2004), The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act was first introduced. The intent of the act is to hold hospitals accountable for the implementation of valid and reliable nurse staffing plans, taking into consideration each hospital unit’s unique needs and strengths. The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act was reintroduced in the 110th Congress (2007-2008) and further refined and reintroduced on June 15, 2010 under S.3491/H.R.5527 during the 111th Congress (American Nurses Association, 2010).

The Society of Pediatric Nurses (SPN) believes the following additional factors are of critical importance regarding safe staffing for pediatric patients: • There are unique challenges with caring for children. These challenges include: o Infants and young children are dependent upon adult caregivers and require closer supervision. o Many children have not yet acquired the communication skills to warn clinicians about a potential mistake or verbalize possible adverse effects about their care. Medication administration is much more complex since weight based dosing is required o for most medications (Kaushal, et al, 2001). The acuity and intensity of nursing resources required to care for children have been growing steadily (Monsen & Finley, 2007; NACHRI, 2003).

Of the 14.1 million children in the US living in poverty, 1 in 10 lack health care coverage (Children’s Defense Fund, 2010). Childhood poverty contributes to deficits in primary and preventative health care and results in increased healthcare issues and higher acuity for these children (Children’s Defense Fund, 2002). Pediatric nurses practice in many settings including hospitals, schools, homes, clinics, long term care facilities, and public health centers. The multitude of settings and the wide range of resources available in each setting greatly affect the type and number of nursing staff required to care for any given patient population. The level of experience of nursing staff, unit layout, and level of ancillary support must be considered when establishing the staffing needs and assignment plan for any given unit (Institute of Medicine, 2010; American Nurses Association, 2007).

Read also  Friedman Family Assessment

Society of Pediatric Nurses Position/Recommendations

SPN believes that all children and their families should receive safe, high quality, culturally sensitive, family-centered care in an environment that supports the development of the child and promotes excellence in nursing care. As an advocate for patients, families, and the pediatric nursing profession, SPN endorses the following recommendations: 1. Staffing is a complex issue composed of multiple variables (American Organization of Nurse Executives, 2003). No single published ratio for nursing staffing is automatically applicable in all settings where children receive care. Published recommendations for staffing ratios must be carefully evaluated for the particular pediatric setting since these ratios may inadvertently minimize the complexity and multitude of issues that must be considered in the care of pediatric patients and their families.

2. The professional registered nurse must be considered an essential member of the team providing care for children and their families; staffing plans must reflect this vital role (American Nurses Credentialing Center, 2003). 3. Healthcare institutions should develop valid and reliable staffing plans (American Nurses Association, 2010) and patient assignments should promote developmentally appropriate, high quality care for children and families. Nursing leadership, registered nurses and other designated nursing staff should be involved in the development of staffing plans and proper preparation of staff for the patient populations cared for within the facility (Joint Commission, 2010).

4. While the specific details of these staffing plans will vary with individual patient needs and facility resources, SPN believes the following factors should be considered in all staffing situations: Number and acuity of the patient population. a. Assessment of patient needs including special developmental, physiological, psychosocial, and learning needs of children and their families. b. Availability of specialized pediatric equipment and supplies to provide the necessary care and the availability of other support services such as respiratory care, child life, social services, and spiritual care (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2006, 2004a, 2004b, 1998). c. Level of education, competency, and the extent of experience and specialized pediatric training of available staff. d. Family involvement and/or the family’s special needs related to meeting the healthcare needs of the child (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2006; Lewandowski & Tessler, 2003).

e. Comparable pediatric staffing benchmark data and/or staffing guidelines from other pediatric focused professional organizations should be integrated into developing staffing plans if at all possible (National Association of Neonatal Nurses 2008; American Nurses Association, 2008; American Academy of Pediatrics 2006, 2004a, 2004b, 1998; NACHRI, 2003). 5. Nurses caring for pediatric patients must have appropriate education and experience to demonstrate competency in the care of this highly specialized patient population.

The core concepts as cited in the following sources should be included in education and training: Pediatric Nursing: Scope and Standards of Pediatric Nursing Practice (American Nurses Association, 2008) Position Statement on Family Centered Care Content in the Nursing Education Curriculum (Society of Pediatric Nurses, 2008) Position Statement on Child Health Content in the Undergraduate Curriculum (Society of Pediatric Nurses, 2007) Core Curriculum for the Nursing Care of Children and Their Families (Broome & Rollins, 1999) Standards and Guidelines for Pre-Licensure and Early Professional Education for the Nursing Care of Children and Their Families (Woodring, 1998).

6. Organizations and nursing staff providing care for pediatric patients should commit to ongoing maintenance of nursing staff’s clinical competency through continuing education that ensures a current knowledge base of issues and trends in pediatric care delivery. 7. Organizations should work to establish practice environments characterized by open communication, teamwork, and effective collaborative problem solving to address nurse staffing issues and ensure safe, effective care for children and families. 8. Nurses are encouraged to assume professional accountability for their own practice. Nurses have accountability for the following: Being an advocate for the role of the registered professional nurse Being knowledgeable of state practice acts Being knowledgeable of the mechanisms available to address potential staffing issues


Aiken, L. H., Sloane, D. M., Cimiotti, J. P., Clarke, S. P., Flynn, L., Seago, J. A., Spetz, J. & Smith, H. L. (2010). Implications of the California nurse staffing mandate for other states. Health Services Research, 45(4), 904-921. Aiken L. H., Clarke, S. P., Sloane, D. M., Sochalski, J., Silber, J. H. (2002). Hospital nurse staffing and patient mortality, nurse burnout, and job dissatisfaction. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288(16), 1987-1993. American Academy of Pediatrics

(2006). Child life services. Pediatrics, 118(4); 1757-1763. American Academy of Pediatrics (2004b). Levels of neonatal care. Pediatrics 114(5); 1342-1347. American Academy of Pediatrics (2004a). Guidelines and levels of care for pediatric intensive care units. Pediatrics 114(4); 1114-1125. American Academy of Pediatrics (1998). Facilities and equipment for the care of pediatric patients in a community hospital. Pediatrics 101(6); 1089-1090.

American Nurses Association. (2010). Safe staffing saves lives. Federal legislation: Registered nurse safe staffing act. Retrieved on-line February 13, 2011. American Nurses Association (2008). Pediatric nursing: Scope and standards of practice. Washington DC: Author. American Nurses Association. (2007). Acute care staffing. Nursing’s legislative and regulatory initiatives for the 110th Congress: Appropriate staffing. Retrieved on-line: February 13, 2011. American Nurses Credentialing Center. (2003). The magnet recognition program for excellence in nursing service health care organization, instructions and application process. Pub# MAGMAN03. Washington, DC: Author. American Organization of Nurse Executives (2003). AONE policy statement on mandated staffing ratios. Retrieved on-line: January 21, 2011. Broome, M. & Rollins, J. (Eds.). (1999). Core curriculum for the nursing care of children and their families. Pittman, NJ: Jannetti Publications. Children’s Defense Fund. (2010). The state of America’s children 2010. Retrieved on line February 13, 2011. Children’s Defense Fund. (2002). Basic facts on poverty. Child Poverty FAQs. Washington DC: Author. Institute of Medicine. (2010). The future of nursing: leading change, advancing health. Report brief: 2010. Washington DC: Author. Institute of Medicine. (1999). To err is human: Building a safer health care system. Washington, DC: Author. Joint Commission. (2010). Joint commission accreditation resources: Accreditation manager plus. Retrieved on-line: February 21, 2011.

Read also  Theory and Evidence Based Practice of Nursing


Kane, R. L., Shamliyan, T. A., Mueller, C., Duval, S., Wilt, T. J. (2007). The association of registered nurse staffing levels and patient outcomes. Systematic review and meta-analysis. Medical Care, 45(12): 1195-1204. Kaushal, R., Bates, D.W., Landrigan, C., McKenna, K. J., Clapp, M. D., Federico, F., Goldman, D. A. (2001). Medication errors and adverse drug events in pediatric inpatients. Journal of the American Medical Association, 285(16), 2114-2120. Lewandowski, L. A. & Tessler, M. D. (Eds.). (2003). Family-centered care: Putting it into action: The SPN/ANA guide to family-centered care. Washington DC: American Nurses Publishing. Mark, B. A., Harless, D. W., Berman, W. F. (2007). Nurse staffing and adverse events in hospitalized children. Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice, 8(2): 83-92. Monsen, R. B., Finley, S. (2007). Shortage of nurses and child health. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 22(3), 231-232). National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions. (2003). Clinical practices service program: Benchmark data. Available from National Association of Neonatal Nurses (2008). Minimum RN staffing in NICU’s. Retrieved online February 11, 2011. Needleman, J., Buerhaus, P. I., Stewart, M., Zelevinsky, K., Soeren, M. (2006). Nurse staffing in hospitals: Is there a business case for quality? Health Affairs, 25(1): 204-211. Schwalenstocker, E., Bisarya, H., Lau, S. & Adebimpe, O. (2007). Nursing-sensitive indicators for children’s hospital care quality: Indicators are essential, but further testing is needed for use in comparing hospital performance. A white paper prepared by the Pediatric Data Quality Systems (PediQS) Collaborative. September 2007. Retrieved on line: February 8, 2011: lay.cfm&ContentID=29730. Society of Pediatric Nurses. (2008). Position statement on family centered care content in the nursing education curriculum. Retrieved on-line: February 21, 2011.,com_docman/Itemid,222/task,doc_view/gid,193/

More Essays

  • Quality of Care in Health Care Settings

    Questions Answered: What is the problems with quality care today? Why is quality of care lacking in areas? Quality of care plays an important role in assuring the standards of nursing performance. By providing specific performance requirements, standards of nursing performance can improve and provide...

  • Effective Approaches in Leadership and Management

    The arrangement of health care system has reciprocated in regard to provide quality and modest care. The treatment of healthcare facilities have changeover at different levels in speciality care and acute illnesses to defensive health plan. The changes have seized effective direct approaches and delivery...

  • Nursing Expertise Self Report Scale

    I think that it is important to understand where you are in your nursing practice. After completing the Nursing Expertise Self-Report Scale, I realize that I still have a lot more experience to gain as a nurse. I believe that nurses must be life-long learners to stay current in the ever-changing field of...

  • Family Members’ Perceptions of the Quality of Long Term Care

    This is a journal study that primarily assesses the different reactions of several family members towards the long-term care given to patients through special health care cases. In terms of social healthcare matters, this journal aims to show how much the nursing practice works for the patients in a long...

  • The Nursing Shortage and the Nursing Work Environment

    1. Introduction 1.1 Nursing as challenging profession: significant physical and psychological demands on nurses of all levels 1.2 Qualified nurses as the core key to success in the delivery of healthcare services 1.3 Qualified nursing staff, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other essential...

  • Interpersonal Relationship

    Introduction Nursing is the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations. American Nurses...

  • Session Long Project

    1. Please briefly discuss how your organization applies each of the Institute of Medicine's 10 rules for redesigning the 21st Century healthcare system. Be sure to comment on each rule. The organization presented, American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), definitely applies each of the ten rules...

  • Professional Development Plan

    Nursing as a career is about providing quality care while upholding the people involved with dignity. Nurses are thought to offer quality care to all regardless their tribe, race, gender, religion or social status in the society. Nurses are called to serve others. As a nurse I want to be the patient's...

  • My Philosophy in Nursing

    My philosophy in nursing is to uphold the dignity of my patients during their vulnerable time of need, care for the patients physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally; current beliefs and values that I try to uphold throughout my life. According to Chitty, "philosophy is defined as the study of the...

  • Professional Values for the Bsn Student

    Nursing students as training professionals in the field of hospital has to have the ability to handle ethical issues within the said industry. Undeniably though, it is essential enough to consider this particular matter when dealing with healthcare professions such as nursing. True, being a nurse requires...