In healthcare, like in other areas, policymakers must consider the finite resources when directing care. Sometimes, choosing one thing means foregoing something else or putting less priority on it. The various needs that must be considered during decision-making are called competing needs. Efficiently considering the competing needs is key to offering the highest level of care while also achieving other goals like cost cutting, safety, and employees’ welfare (Muabbar & Alsharqi, 2021). The stressor of nurse shortage results from inadequate nurses covering all patients' needs. However, solving it is not very simple because it requires that facilities hire more staff despite trying to cut costs involved in their operations.
Competing needs make it very challenging to make decisions in healthcare organizations. Competing needs usually cause stress from different sides. That is, achieving one need usually means not achieving the other need. Therefore, a policy that solves an issue, unless well created, may adversely affect the implementation of another policy or generate new problems. For instance, generally, in healthcare, quality measures are very important. They lead to improved patient preference. However, they require the investment of resources that are usually inadequate or at least limited (Marufu et al., 2021). Therefore, facilities sometimes forego some quality measures, especially when the costs of implementing measures are very high. Competing needs have operational and strategic implications. While operational issues affect people's decisions, daily strategic ones affect facilities in the long run. Strategic implications may include their effects on staffing and quality measures (Muabbar & Alsharqi, 2021). Therefore, proper prioritizing is needed to ensure a good balance between competing measures to get optimal results.
The specific competing needs that impact the nurse shortage are several. Two of the most important ones include the need to fill staffing gaps and the need to cut costs. Hiring more people requires that facilities invest money to look for qualified people, perform interviews, and hire them. Hiring people causes the human resource budget to increase (Tamata et al., 2021). The increase in the budget goes against the need to cost-cut. High healthcare costs make it hard for people to afford it. They also make it hard for facilities to remain afloat. Administrators must reduce the costs involved in servicing patients' needs to meet other obligations and also make a profit. The need to motivate nurses also competes against the need to reduce costs. To improve nurse retention and reduce turnover, leaders must motivate people. Motivation may be by offering scholarships, better pay, or other incentives to make professionals feel valued (Marufu et al., 2021). Spending on any of the incentives will reduce the money that could have been saved, and the profit shareholders would have made.
The impact of the competing needs on staff shortage is that it creates dilemmas during decision-making and complicates the process. When deciding whether to hire more nurses or implement other measures to reduce the shortage, leaders must consider the available resources. Facilities can only hire more nurses when they can afford it and when it will still allow other stakeholders to benefit (Tamata et al., 2021). For instance, facilities cannot hire more staff when making losses because they will need more money to get more staff and remain sustainable. Policies may help address the challenges by determining the nurse-patient ratios that are required. With such policies, leaders will not have to decide whether or not to hire. Rather, they must hire enough staff to meet the current needs.
In conclusion, competing needs affect all businesses. Competing needs mostly exist because of the inadequate resources that are usually available and the many functions that require them to be used. Staff shortage is usually affected by the need to make profits or cut costs while also ensuring that enough nurses and other staff are employed. Staffing policies may help determine the needed staff and reduce the dilemmas that leaders face.
Marufu, T. C., Collins, A., Vargas, L., Gillespie, L., & Almghairbi, D. (2021). Factors influencing retention among hospital nurses: systematic review. British Journal of Nursing, 30(5), 302-308. https://doi.org/10.12968/bjon.2021.30.5.302
Muabbar, H., & Alsharqi, O. (2021). The impact of short-term solutions of nursing shortage on nursing outcome, nurse perceived quality of care, and patient safety. American Journal of Nursing Research, 9(2), 35–44. DOI:10.12691/ajnr-9-2-1
Tamata, A. T., Mohammadnezhad, M., & Tamani, L. (2021). Registered nurses’ perceptions on the factors affecting nursing shortage in the Republic of Vanuatu Hospitals: A qualitative study. Plos one, 16(5), e0251890. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0251890