A Message to AHA Members:

At an event this afternoon, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations released a white paper on the nursing workforce shortage.  According to their press release, “the growing shortage of nurses in America’s hospitals is putting patient lives in danger and requires immediate attention.”  The release goes on to state, “failure to address this problem aggressively, JCAHO warns, is likely to result in increased deaths, complications, lengths-of-stay and other undesirable patient outcomes.”

The Joint Commission white paper and other materials are available at:


This white paper has already attracted some national media attention.  For example, ABC World News Tonight is planning a segment for tonight’s broadcast.  Please check your local listings for times and channels.

In addition, you may receive follow-up inquiries from local media.  A set of talking points that may help you respond to these inquiries is attached.  Feel free to share this advisory with the head of your hospital’s public relations departments. 

For media relations’ questions, please call Christina Pearson at (202) 626-2342 or Amy Lee at (202) 626-2284.

           Talking Points

Joint Commission White Paper on Nurse Staffing
and the Quality of Care in Hospitals

  • It’s clear to all who work in hospitals that registered nurses are key to ensuring good patient care. Unfortunately, today we have a severe shortage of registered nurses.
  • Building the workplace of the future is our number one challenge.  Among the many issues facing the health care field, solving the growing workforce crisis is critical.

  •   Currently, shortages are being reported in nearly every type of hospital job.  Unlike previous periodic shortages, the current situation is long-term, broader and more severe.

  • That is why the AHA and the American Organization of Nurse Executives have been working over the last two years on multiple fronts to find solutions to the workforce shortage.  It is clear that there isn’t a “silver bullet” solution.  The responsibility to solve the workforce shortage is held by multiple parties, including hospitals and the health care field, state and federal policymakers, business and workers. 

Our initiatives to find solutions to the workforce shortage include:

         A report, issued this spring by the AHA Commission on Workforce, which   lays out  concrete steps that can help hospital leaders deal with this problem  now and in the future. 

  • The report contains almost 100 examples of successful strategies hospitals have used to retain and recruit health care workers.  The report is centered on five chapters that contain specific recommendations of how hospitals can foster meaningful work, improve the workplace partnership, broaden the base of health care workers, collaborate with others and build societal support.
  • The Commission was comprised of a diverse group of 27 leaders, including representatives from health care, labor, business and education.
  • More than 30,000 copies have been distributed to hospital leaders, trustees, nurse executives and human resources executives, among others.  Thousands have accessed this information via our website.

            On the legislative front, we’re asking policymakers to offer incentives to enter and stay in health professions, including providing fair and adequate reimbursement, helping hospitals help patients by cutting burdensome red tape, and proposing incentives to build new ways to care.

  • Recent enactment of the Nurse Reinvestment Act is a good step forward.
  • Everyone who works within a hospital is dedicated to providing the best care possible to patients, and hospitals have checks and balances in place to ensure quality care.  Still, the nursing shortage has put some real stress on our system.
  •  That’s why it’s so important that we look for ways to further support the nurses and physicians on the front lines…whether it’s freeing them up from unnecessary paperwork burdens, providing assistants who can help perform non-nursing duties or putting in place new technologies that help nurses and physicians deliver care. 
  • This is a real challenge in a world of constrained resources.  But hospitals are determined to do whatever it takes to ensure that patients continue to receive the right care, at the right time, in the right place.

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