HAP Resource Center

Fact Sheet: Pennsylvania’s Nurses Are More Than a Number

The health care workforce is in crisis, in Pennsylvania and across the nation. There simply are not enough qualified professionals to meet our aging population’s growing need for care. The commonwealth must make significant investments to increase the number of people in the health care workforce by developing, recruiting, and retaining well-qualified providers. One-size-fits-all, statewide mandates interject unwanted barriers between caregivers and the patients who need them.

Infographic showing vacancy rates for Pennsylvania hospital staff; 53% nurse anethetists, 42% medical assistants, 33% respiratory therapists, 32% nursing support staff, 32% nurse practitioners, 31% registered nurses

 Mandating staffing ratios is not the answer.

  • Mandating ratios does not produce more nurses or other health professionals to care for Pennsylvanians.
  • When workforce shortages make it impossible for hospitals to meet the mandates, they will be forced to close beds/units, emergency room waits will increase, and access to care will decrease in many communities.
  • Health care teams make complex, real-time, evidence-based decisions with consideration for individual patients, groups of patients, provider skills, and other factors. Pre-set ratios replace this professional judgment, reduce these complex decisions to out-of-context numbers, and put treatment processes in the hands of the government.

 Only California mandates nurse ratios hospital-wide. Its law:

  • Has hurt access to care. California patients have fewer services, longer emergency department wait times, and higher costs than before the mandate.
  • Has not improved care. California’s outcomes do not consistently rank higher than other states. Pennsylvania already performs better in overall health care quality as well as several specific quality indicators tied to nursing.
  • Has not eased workforce shortages. As of February 2023, California was second only to Pennsylvania in demand for travel nurses.1

 Health care takes a team

Group of nurses wearing masks

Delivering safe and high-quality care is about more than putting a number on nurses. Many hospitals today have shifted to team-based approaches to care that empower nurses to more effectively focus on the most important part of their job: Caring for patients.

Modern care teams bring together many types of health care professionals to:

  • Make the best use of professionals’ skills and training
  • Offer flexible care to best meet each patient’s needs

 HAP supports a comprehensive strategy to sustain and grow the health care workforce that:

  • Makes health care education more affordable and accessible by funding scholarships, expanding loan forgiveness, investing in health care education programs, and offering incentives for clinicians to work as health care faculty and preceptors.
  • Helps clinicians quickly get to work by addressing licensing delays and administrative barriers.
  • Invests in and strengthens protections for health care workforce safety.
  • Promotes careers in nursing, fosters a more diverse and equitable health care workforce, and supports career advancement for health care professionals.
  • Encourages innovative care models, technology, and benefits that improve work/life harmony.
  • Empowers providers to spend more time and energy caring for patients and practicing at the top of their license and training.
  • Prioritizes these efforts by establishing a health care workforce council that coordinates across state agencies.

Learn more about comprehensive strategies to grow and support health care providers.

 Pennsylvania’s workforce shortage is among the most severe in the nation. Why?

  • An aging and retiring health care workforce
  • Too few educators and clinical training opportunities for health care professionals
  • Too few graduates of nursing and health care education programs
  • Bedside nurses expanding to advanced practice opportunities
  • More patients who need acute care
  • Stress, family obligations, and other life changes stemming from the pandemic


Topics: Access to Care, State Advocacy, Workforce

Revision Date: 4/14/2023

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