A scoping review of nursing workforce planning and forecasting research

J Nurs Manag. 2017 Nov;25(8):587-596. doi: 10.1111/jonm.12510. Epub 2017 Sep 10.


Aim: This study will critically evaluate forecasting models and their content in workforce planning policies for nursing professionals and to highlight the strengths and the weaknesses of existing approaches.

Background: Although macro-level nursing workforce issues may not be the first thing that many nurse managers consider in daily operations, the current and impending nursing shortage in many countries makes nursing specific models for workforce forecasting important.

Method: A scoping review was conducted using a directed and summative content analysis approach to capture supply and demand analytic methods of nurse workforce planning and forecasting. The literature on nurse workforce forecasting studies published in peer-reviewed journals as well as in grey literature was included in the scoping review.

Results: Thirty six studies met the inclusion criteria, with the majority coming from the USA. Forecasting methods were biased towards service utilization analyses and were not consistent across studies.

Conclusion: Current methods for nurse workforce forecasting are inconsistent and have not accounted sufficiently for socioeconomic and political factors that can influence workforce projections. Additional studies examining past trends are needed to improve future modelling.

Implications for nursing management: Accurate nursing workforce forecasting can help nurse managers, administrators and policy makers to understand the supply and demand of the workforce to prepare and maintain an adequate and competent current and future workforce.

Keywords: human resources for health; nurses; scoping review; workforce forecasting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Forecasting / methods*
  • Health Workforce*
  • Humans
  • Nursing Staff / supply & distribution*
  • Personnel Selection / standards*