Maldistribution or scarcity of nurses? The devil is in the detail

Jitske M.C. Both-Nwabuwe*, Maria T.M. Dijkstra, Ab Klink, Bianca Beersma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Aims: The goal of this paper was to improve our understanding of nursing shortages across the variety of health care sectors and how this may affect the agenda for addressing nursing shortages. A health care sector comprises a number of health care services for one particular type of patient care, for example, the hospital care sector. Background: Most Western countries are shifting health care services from hospital care towards community and home care, thus increasing nursing workforce challenges in home and community care. In order to implement appropriate policy responses to nursing workforce challenges, we need to know if these challenges are caused by maldistribution of nurses and/or the scarcity of nurses in general. Evaluation: Focusing on the Netherlands, we reviewed articles based on data of a labour market research programme and/or data from the Dutch Employed Persons’ Insurance Administration Agency. The data were analysed using a data synthesis approach. Key Issues: Nursing shortages are unevenly distributed across the various health care sectors. Shortages of practical nurses are caused by maldistribution, with a long-term projected surplus of practical nurses in hospitals and projected shortages in nursing/convalescent homes and home care. Shortages of first-level registered nurses are caused by general scarcity in the long term, mainly in hospitals and home care. Conclusions: Nursing workforce challenges are caused by a maldistribution of nurses and the scarcity of nurses in general. To implement appropriate policy responses to nursing workforce challenges, integrated health care workforce planning is necessary. Implications for Nursing Management: Integrated workforce planning models could forecast the impact of health care transformation plans and guide national policy decisions on transitioning programmes. Effective transitioning programmes are required to address nursing shortages and to diminish maldistribution. In addition, increased recruitment and retention as well as new models of care are required to address the scarcity of nurses in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-93
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nursing Management
Issue number2
Early online date7 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • health care sectors
  • maldistribution
  • nursing shortages
  • scarcity


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