The left-leaning Institute for Women's Policy Research released a study (funded by the Service Employees International Union) suggesting that the most direct way to solve the hospital nurse shortage is to raise wages.

When nurse wages were increased in 2001 by 2.4 percent after
inflation, hospitals were able to increase their nursing staffs by 9.2
percent in 2002. Further wage growth in 2002 -- an increase of 7.6
percent -- was met with additional hiring the next year, with hospitals
employing 9.4 percent more nurses in 2003 than in 2002.

However, when wages stagnated and then dropped in 2003 and 2004,
the hospital nurse work force responded immediately, with a 2.8 percent
decline in employment from 2003 to 2004.

It is surprising that basic economics has not figured more when considering the nurse shortage. "Only 11 of 49 recent studies, by groups ranging from federal agencies
and state commissions to industry and university researchers, propose
an increase in pay as a strategy for attracting more bedside nurses."

In certain ways health care seems almost hostile to this virtuous cycle of increased productivity and wages. Spending money for new drugs or clinical tools is usually pretty easy. But when it comes to questioning certain beliefs or changing the way certain fundamental things are done, resistance can be fierce. One example is the slow adoption of BIS monitoring by anesthesiologists; another is resistance to variable acuity units by caregivers. Health care vendors are no more innovative than their customers if it means impacting top line revenue or margins.