Adverse Effects Of Nurses Understaffing In Nigeria: Negative Impacts On Universal Coverage

Adverse Effects Of Nurses Understaffing In Nigeria: Negative Impacts On Universal Coverage

Adverse Effects Of Nurses Understaffing In Nigeria: Negative Impacts On Universal Coverage

Understaffing in the nursing terrain is always like a song sang on the cool of the day. Government agencies and all related health organizations know this fact yet many have ignored this emergent need for remedy and action. The primary focus of every nation I guess is to have or rather gain maximum efficacy. In as much as this is true it is still unbelieving as Nigeria health sector and government treat and handle this important issue sometimes makes me wonder if it’s a malediction or an imprecation. Looking at the declaration of world health organization (WHO) about how necessary and needful it is to employ nurses in all cadres, nooks and crannies of the health sector one would think Nigeria would had quickly sworn into action to fill the needful spaces, vacancies and offices in all hospitals, clinics, institutions and organizations with nurses for the elegant benefit of the patients but otherwise is the case. By observational statistical research Nigeria needs 33,000 nurses across the country in a year meanwhile it currently has 37% of the current demand. Effective nursing practice will appreciate a 1:4 nurse to patient capacity representation but reverse is the case. Nigeria currently maintains a 1: 10 nurse to patient capacity representation averagely which is still not enough for the recent population spike or growth. This has brought the want for the introduction of licensed community nurses (LCN) as proposed in a circular by the nursing and midwifery council of Nigeria (2020) through the office of the secretary general F. Umar FWACN. Though I disagree with the strategy of the introduction of LCN it doesn’t still change the fact that nurses are understaffed in the various health establishments in Nigeria.
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It is crystal clear that this could be part of the etiologies that warrants some of the anomalies in the nursing practice in Nigeria when we peruse critically. On this note I will love to elaborate and summarize some of the adverse effects nursing understaffing has procured in Nigeria and in relation to the universal health coverage for all. Meanwhile, it expedient for us to note that universal health coverage is a terminology vaunted out of the ‘health for all’ model of public health as advocated also in the sustainable development goals (SDGs) outlined by the united nations.
Perhaps, nursing understaffing has prominently affected not just the patient’s wellbeing but even the health team. I will cautiously divide these effects into patient, profession and team centers.
Adverse Effects Of Nurses Understaffing In Nigeria: Negative Impacts On Universal Coverage

Some of the adverse effects are hence demonstrated below:


  • Reduction of time for deserved attention
  • Inadequate care will be rendered to the patient
  • Minor errors will be committed due to work stress
  • Little known omissions will be omitted
  • Patient to nurse friendly relationship will be lost
  • Good communication and interaction for total patient’s
  • wellbeing will be ignored
    Wrong prescription of drugs can be administered due to duress and hyperactivity to be off stress and work
  • Poor accuracy to record vital details or information of patient’s test, observation or laboratory documents
  • Patient will feel uncared for and may lose the need for returning back to the health care facility if there is a relapse or any new disease and rather prefer traditional treatment which may be detrimental
  • Reduction of patient’s trust and confidence for orthodox and scientific medicine
  • This may lead to poor recovery of the patient
  • Nosocomic infections may arise as a result of negligence by the nurse during a preventable procedure
  • This will lead to increase maternal mortality during childbirth
  • Infant mortality will increase
    Increase of preventable tropical disease
  • Increased sexagenarian mortality
    There will poor disease surveillance and monitoring
  • Error in statistical records and research documents especially in clinical health facilities etc
  • Insufficiency of nurses in the rural areas thereby making the people unable to access good quality healthcare
  • Health will no longer be for all because the front liners especially for rural areas which are nurses including primary healthcares (PHCs) have been neglected and underemployed.


  • Negligence could arise
  • Malpractice could ensue
  • Unnecessary hostile reaction by the nurse caused by stress
  • Abnormal gait
  • Lack of management efficacy
  • The nurse may lose leadership capacity because of excessive workload
  • Psychological effect may be visible
  • Anxiety which may develop to depression
  • Work overload It may lead to nursing staff breakdown
  • The nurse will not be efficient
    Work overload may affect the nursing staff family relationships negatively
  • Poor capacity development


It is paramount that the health professionals work in a consensus for the betterment of the patient’s health status quo. If there is a member of the team who breached this it will be difficult for the team to achieve the said goal of the team of improving patient’s health continuum. The health profession is a team and there is no inter-professional superiority instead a leader of the team. Therefore, there is need for friendliness. Most times, because of staffing work stress could affect the nurse thereby implicating a negative response or relationship which could range from omission to forgetfulness of his or her duties.
Finally, nursing understaffing is no news to the Nigerian government and citizens. I perhaps therefore, use this medium to invite as well as call on the government of Nigeria to do the needful. Employing nurses across the states is pertinent and must not be underscored except if the government is yet willing to gamble with the lives of its respected citizens as I use this means to also beseech and urge our nurses to always be vigilant in identifying early signals of work overload and treat them urgently.



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