Journal List > J Korean Acad Nurs Adm > v.20(1) > 1051730

Lee, Kang, Ko, Cho, and Kim: Issues and Challenges of Nurse Workforce Policy: A Critical Review and Implication



In this paper issues and challenges of the workforce policy for nursing were explored and appropriate policy responses identified.


Many countries, including South Korea, are facing a shortage of nurses. In South Korea, the number of practicing registered nurses is about half the average for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries. The shortage of nurses is not necessarily a shortage of individuals with nursing qualifications but also includes complex issues, such as lack of well-educated nurses, shortage of nurses willing to work, and geographical imbalances of nurses. The present nurse workforce policies are to increase number of nursing schools, to reduce the length of training, and to replace nurses with nursing assistants. However, the findings of many studies have shown that these attempts resulted in a worsening of patient outcomes and increasingly low quality of care.


The findings in this study indicate that nurse workforce policy should have a multi-faceted approach in order to address the many factors affecting nurse shortages.

Figures and Tables

Table 1
Korean Registered Nurses and Nurse Aids

Source: Ministry of Health & Welfare (2013).

Table 2
Distribution of Population, Inpatient Days, and Practicing Registered Nurses (RNs) by Administrative District

Source: Statistics Korea (2010) & Statistics Korea (2011).

Table 3
Korean Nurses' Turnover Rate

Source: Noh et al. (2011).


This research was supported by the Korean Academy of Nursing Administration Research Fund.


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