Health Econ Policy Law. 2023 Sep 13:1-15. doi: 10.1017/S1744133123000178. Online ahead of print.
Nurse workforce shortages put healthcare systems under pressure, moving the nursing profession into the core of healthcare policymaking. In this paper, we shift the focus from workforce policy to workforce politics and highlight the political role of nurses in healthcare systems in England, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Using a comparative discursive institutionalist approach, we study how nurses are organised and represented in these four countries. We show how nurse politics plays out at the levels of representation, working conditions, career building, and by breaking with the public healthcare system. Although there are differences between the countries – with nurses in England and Spain under more pressure than in the Netherlands and Sweden – nurses are often not represented in policy discourses; not just because of institutional ignorance but also because of fragmentation of the profession itself. This institutional ignorance and lack of collective representation, we argue, requires attention to foster the role and position of nurses in contemporary healthcare systems.