Why does New Jersey have a shortage of nurses?

Healthcare advocates in New Jersey are calling on Gov. Chris Christie to address a crisis they say has been fueled by years of neglect.

"I have watched the nursing standards and procedures slide into disrepair over the years, we are finally speaking up, this cannot continue," says Avery Hart, the public advocate for the New Jersey Board of Nursing.

The Board of Nurses is one of the busiest in New Jersey. It oversees about 200,000 nurses and home health aides. Still, "the professional staff has been cut to shreds and it's on a starvation diet," Hart says.

Hart adds the group is so understaffed that it has led to months of back log in certifying nurses.

"It's a drag on the whole licensing process, it makes everything take a lot more time and more importantly it puts public health in peril," she says.

State Sens. Bob Gordon and Loretta Weinberg got wind of the issue last month and vowed to get to the bottom of it.

Though, the Christie administration sees it differently. In a four-page letter to lawmakers, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs Steve Lee called the claims "demonstrably false." The letter continues, "If there are any applicants who are waiting a significant period of time for their license, it is usually because the application is missing information."

Lee goes on to say a sudden influx of nursing applicants is typical for this time of year. He writes, "But for anyone to suggest that this cyclical reality is somehow reflective of a general failure by the Board staff is nothing shy of intentionally misleading."