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Working with limited resources

Situations where the need for health care is greater than the available resources can happen in any practice setting.

Situations where the need for health care is greater than the available resources can happen in any practice setting. You may be asked to increase your client load, work additional hours, work in unfamiliar areas and/or work without adequate resources. These situations require your professional judgment and ethical decision-making. To the best of your ability, you are responsible for providing safe, appropriate nursing care. If you find yourself working short staffed/with limited resources, the following strategies can help:

Review our FAQs

Define the issue​

  • Identify the factors interfering with your ability to provide safe, appropriate care
  • Discuss your concerns with knowledgeable people such as colleagues, managers, professional practice office staff, a BCCNM regulatory practice consultant
  • Look for information such as BCCNM RPN Professional and Practice standards, CNA Code of Ethics, employer policies, BC legislation, collective agreements or employment contracts


  • Communication is key. It’s important to inform the appropriate person (supervisor, coordinator, manager) when a lack of support or resources interferes with your ability to provide safe, appropriate client care.


Whether you are a direct care nurse or a nurse manager, documentation outlines your concerns.

  • Use the standards to describe safety issues including care that could not be provided and/or possible client outcomes
  • Be a specific as possible. General statements about clients being at risk, working short staffed/with limited resources, and being unsafe do not provide enough information to help others to address concerns

Work together

Work collaboratively with others to resolve these situations by suggesting strategies and supporting solutions that promote safe care.

  • Identify your options and develop a plan.
  • Implement the plan, evaluate it and change if needed.

Use Resolving Professional Practice Problems to help guide you through this process. If you're facing an ethical dilemma, follow the ethical decision-making framework in the Duty to Provide Care practice standard.

Nurses in leadership roles are expected to review your concerns and take appropriate action. They are expected to use strategies that support the provision of safe, competent and ethical care such as:

  • Reviewing the number and mix of qualified staff
  • Developing and using effective contingency plans
  • Limiting elective admissions and procedures
  • Minimizing non-nursing duties for RNs
  • Managing and supporting RNs in overcapacity situations
  • Sharing staff and client care concerns with higher levels of administration
  • Advocating for adequate resources to support client care ​

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