Consecutive administrations, policymakers, healthcare practitioners, and other mainstream commentators have attempted to address the issue of nursing shortage in the United States, but no entity seems to have ready-made solutions to the problem that have persisted for over four decades now. Many of these stakeholders put much hope in the Nurse Reinvestment Act that was actualized into law in 2002 by President Bush, but this too has failed to address the problem of nursing shortage. The article “Politics, Economics, and Nursing Shortages: A Critical Look at United States Government Policies” by Elgie (2007) addresses some of the failures of nurse education supply subsidies from a purely economic perspective of supply and demand to achieve market or labor equilibrium. The nurse education subsidies are entrenched in the Act.
Perhaps the major highlight of the article is its incessant opposition to the widely held perception by government agencies and politicians that “…the best solution to the nursing shortage [in the U.S.] is to increase nurse supply subsidies” (Elgie, 2007, p. 286). The author provides a solid argument of labor market interference through grants, loans, and vouchers provided for in the Nurse Reinvestment Act by availing evidence to demonstrate how they override forces of supply and demand in the nursing profession. According to the author, the provision of nursing subsidies and recruitment of foreign nurses have inextricably failed to move nurse labor supply and demand toward equilibrium as these practices lower nursing wages to below what they would be in a free market economy, leading to high turnover.
Upon further analysis of the article, it is justifiable to adopt the author’s economic viewpoint that nursing education subsidies tamper with the normal functioning of the labor market through depressing average wages and other perks to below fair market value, primarily occasioned by the fact that nurse professionals who receive subsidized education are able to avail nursing services for less compensation because they paid less money or nothing at all for their training (Elgie, 2007). The author also accuses international nurses of further unbalancing the free labor market by exposing U.S.-trained nurses to unfair competitive advantage as they often acquire free education in their native countries. These observations are justifiable to the point that the practices trigger a scenario where massive numbers of nurses become available to provide nursing services for less compensation, effectively leading to the turnover of nurses to other fields.
The article, more than anything else, exposes the weak links of the Nurse Reinvestment Act, especially its culpability in being used by employers within the nursing profession to circumvent the normal functioning of the labor market and the wage mechanism. More importantly, the article successfully highlights how nursing supply subsidies continue to impinge on achieving equilibrium in nursing by ejecting qualified nurses from the nursing profession into other career domains and curtailing any substantial shift of the labor force toward nursing due to wages differentials and other related factors (Elgie, 2007)
To conclude, it is imperative for relevant stakeholders to consider reorganizing or reconstituting the nursing subsidies which continue to progress the problem of nursing shortage by lowering the overall cost of nurse supply and encouraging turnover. To consolidate gains made in dealing with the problem of nursing shortage in recent years, according to the article, relevant stakeholders must not only bolster initiatives aimed at providing better working hours, better salaries, and more rewarding work but must also ensure that labor markets are free of government interference to eliminate noted disparities in labor supply (Elgie, 2007).
Elgie, R. (2007). Politics, economics, and nursing shortages: A critical look at United States government policies. Nursing Economic$, 25(5), 285-292.