Challenges in getting workforce research in nursing used for decision-making in policy and practice: a Canadian perspective

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Aims and objectives

This paper draws upon empirical research and other published sources to discuss nursing workforce issues, the challenges of using health human resource research in policy decisions and the importance of evidence-based policies and practices for nursing care and outcomes.


Increasing evidence points to the critical relationship between registered nurse care and improved patient outcomes. The negative impact that insufficient nurse staffing has on patient, nursing and system outcomes has influenced health human resource researchers to further examine nurses' work environments to determine factors that are amenable to policy change.


Survey of literature was conducted.


Electronic databases were searched using keywords.


Sustained health human resource planning efforts by policy makers are difficult given changing governments and political agendas. The health human resource conceptual framework provides researchers and planners with a guide to decision-making that considers current circumstances as well as those factors that need to be accounted for in predicting future requirements. However, effective use of research depends on communication of findings between researchers and policymakers.


Health care managers and other decision-makers in health care organisations often lack an understanding of the research process and do not always have easy access to current evidence. Also, managerial decisions are often constrained by organisational requirements such as resource availability and policies and procedures.

Relevance to clinical practice

Unless nursing workplace issues are addressed, the physiological and psychological stress in the work environments of nurses will continue. Effective health human resource policy and planning (at the macro level) and management strategies (at the micro level) would stabilise the nursing workforce and reduce job stress. Furthermore, the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the health system could be enhanced through improved health outcomes of care providers and health care clients.

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