Overcoming Europe’s nursing workforce crisis

HPP collaborated with nursing organisation representatives to explore some of the major challenges faced by the nursing workforce in the context of non-communicable diseases.

female white nurses talking and holding clipboard to show male black nurse


Health systems across Europe are currently facing two intertwined crises: a high number of nurses quitting or considering quitting their jobs, and an increasing burden from non-communicable diseases (NCDs). To address these crises, policymakers need to make systemic changes that put the wellbeing of nurses at the centre.

Europe’s health systems are in the midst of a nursing workforce crisis. Nurses across Europe are struggling with low wellbeing and job satisfaction. Among the many and complex reasons for this situation are poor working conditions, low pay, high workload and lack of career opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, leading nurses to quit or consider quitting in unprecedented numbers.

At the same time, Europe is facing a rapidly increasing burden of NCDs. NCDs such as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes and cancer are already the leading cause of death in Europe and are responsible for some of the highest levels of health expenditure. This situation is set to worsen as Europe’s population ages, leading to higher numbers of people living with multiple NCDs and requiring increasingly complex care.

To address this double crisis, policymakers will need to make systemic changes with nurses’ wellbeing at the centre. These changes include better pay and working conditions, opportunities for skill enhancement and professional recognition, empowering nurses in the delivery of care, and harnessing the power of technology to better support nurses. A piecemeal approach is not enough to address the chronic issues affecting the nursing workforce. To enact true change, these changes should be implemented as part of a holistic wellbeing framework.

What we’ve achieved

We developed a think piece exploring the challenges that negatively affect nurses’ wellbeing and job satisfaction, within the context of NCD care across Europe.

We collaborated closely with the European Federation of Nurses Associations, whose President co-authored the think piece, and we interviewed representatives of national nursing associations in three European countries.

We also wrote an accompanying comment piece which was published in the British Journal of Nursing.

Key partners and stakeholders

The think piece was co-authored by HPP team members and Elizabeth Adams, President, European Federation of Nurses Associations.

The authors are grateful to the following experts, who provided valuable insights on the situation in Europe and in their respective countries:

  • Aristides Chorattas, Vice-President, European Federation of Nurses Associations (EFN); Board Member, Cyprus Nurses and Midwives Association (CYNMA); President, CYNMA Accreditation Committee
  • Charli Hadden, Policy Adviser, Royal College of Nursing, UK
  • Wolfgang Kuttner, Executive Committee member, EFN; Region Chairman for Upper Austria, Austrian Nurses Association

Project funding

This report is an independent think piece from HPP. We received no funding for this work.