Hospital staff shortages already serious
June 5, 2001 Posted: 2:38 PM EDT (1838 GMT http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/06/05...ies/index.html
By Pete Hartogs
CNN Medical Unit
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Quality of care in U.S. hospitals is already being affected by a workforce shortage, according to a new survey released Tuesday by the American Hospital Association.
The AHA said hospitals need to deal with the problem immediately, rather than focus on potential future shortages.
The survey looked at 715 hospitals and found that they are already suffering from the impact of nearly 168,000 vacancies. There are 126,000 registered nurse jobs vacant nationwide.
Until Tuesday's survey was released, the majority of studies have focused on the need for more health care workers in 2010 and beyond. This is the first survey to show the large number of currently unfilled positions such as nurses, pharmacists and lab technicians.
"This issue cuts to the core of every hospital," said Dick Davidson, president of the AHA. "We know that caregivers are our most important resource, so this growing problem is of the utmost concern."
Approximately one in five pharmacists positions are vacant, 18 percent of radiological technologists jobs are unfilled, and 12 percent of lab technologists jobs remain vacant.
Traditionally, rural hospitals feel the impact of workforce shortages, but according to the AHA, urban hospitals are suffering from a lack of workers as well.
The AHA called for immediate action to cope with the workforce shortages and recommended "tens of billions of dollars" worth of proposed legislation to help hospitals deal with rising labor costs and attract and keep workers.
The AHA also called for a fostering of "next generation" caregivers by establishing a national nursing service corps and expanding opportunities for clinical nursing education. The group also supports grant programs for continuing education and training programs.
In additions, the AHA wants to reduce the load of "burdensome" paperwork that keeps caregivers away from the bedside. Davidson said for every hour of bedside care, another hour of paperwork needs to be completed.