What are the biggest challenges for nurses?

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You may be asked about the biggest challenges currently facing nurses in the health care industry by prospective employers as an interview question. Alternatively, if you are still in nursing school you may encounter this question as a writing prompt for an essay assignment.

In either instance, you should examine the perspective of a nursing professional to formulate your answer.


Stress is a challenge that working nurses actively face on a regular basis. Some nurses feel that stress levels would be more manageable if nurses were given more flexibility in their work environments, especially when the nurses are faced with choosing from one stressful environment and another because of their specific skill set. According to Ultimatenurse.com, work environments are determined by set specialities. If a nurse typically works in the intensive care unit and she requests a transition into a less stressful environment, hospital administration will approve a transfer into the emergency room over the delivery room because of the technical experience and skills she has. This transfer puts the nurse in an equally stressful environment. Many nurses are leaving the profession because of limited options in managing stress levels.

Compensation and Job Security

Many nurses feel that their wages do not fairly compensate for the medical services they render. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of registered nurses was £40,592 in May 2008. Primary care physicians had a total median annual compensation of £120,928 and specialised physicians earned a total median annual compensation of £220,829. Nurses are currently undertaking many of the same legal liabilities as doctors and they perform many of the same services while receiving significantly less income.

Shortage of Skilled Nurses

Ageing baby boomers are retiring from the work force and medical students are opting for other professions in medicine. When potential nurses look into nursing programs there is a great deal of confusion regarding training requirements as they vary by state. This contributes to an avoidance of moving into a nursing career for many potential students. Ultimatenurse.com mentions that the ageing population is putting excess strain on the medical system which is increasing the workload of nurses that may feel underpaid for their services. Nurses also face the risk of being sued in medical malpractice suits as they do not command the same authority or professional respect as doctors. While working under doctors, nurses' opinions are often ignored and devalued which adds to overall job dissatisfaction. Nurses are also avoiding direct involvement in patient care as a result which worsens the effects of the shortage.

Time Management

Another challenge nurses face is managing their time while accomplishing all of the tasks set before them while working on a shift. Nurses are expected to meet many demands during a work shift. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that nurses must effectively manage and monitor patient care while simultaneously teaching nursing students and maintaining timely orders. Nurses also file patient paperwork and interact with patients' family members. Organization of time management is regulated by nursing staff but job duties are set by doctors and administrators.