How will the economy affect issues of nursing salaries and staffing?

  1. This is an article from the Latest Nursing News on the Home Page of allnurses.com.
    If the economy continues to sag, more will look to nursing for livelihood. While I welcome new nurses, I am wondering if we will lose ground on issues such as pay, negotiating salary, staff ratios, mandatory overtime, respect,etc. What do you think

    http://www.allnurses.com/news/jump.cgi?ID=1125
    Ailing economy may be remedy for nurse shortage
    Local nursing schools see enrollments soar as people seek second, stable careers.

    By Kathy Lauer-Williams
    Of The Morning Call


    ep 3, 2002


    With a national nursing shortage that could result in more than a million job openings in the next decade, area nursing schools are seeing a boom in enrollment, especially of second-career students.

    ''It's a national trend,'' said Laurie Murray, a professor at Cedar Crest College's nursing school and member of a state Health Department task force studying the matter. ''Everyone is reporting increases in enrollment because of layoffs in the job force.''

    St. Luke's School of Nursing in Fountain Hill on Thursday reported it has enrolled 78 new students, its largest class ever. There also are eight students returning.

    Janet Sipple, dean of the school, said part of the increase was because of downsizing at local companies such as Bethlehem Steel Corp. and Agere Systems.

    At Cedar Crest in Allentown, Murray said her evening class more than doubled to 50 students, and she might need to start a waiting list for the next semester.

    ''Of my evening students, half to three-quarters have previous degrees,'' she said. ''They've seen there is a nursing shortage and see the bonuses and sign-on incentives offered by hospitals.''

    When Noreen Thomas, a 28-year-old account executive, was laid off a year ago from Agere, a change of career was the last thing on her mind.

    ''I looked for a job but didn't have a lot of leads,'' the Bethlehem woman said. ''I always thought I'd get a job in the same field, but I only got two or three interviews after getting laid off.''

    After talking to relatives who were nurses, Thomas said, she decided to switch gears and enroll at St. Luke's.

    ''I need to do something with my life,'' she said. ''I don't have a nursing or medical background, but I always had a desire to go into something medical.''

    Lower Saucon Township resident William Books found himself in the same boat.

    ''I've been in the steel-related industry for almost 30 years,'' said the 56-year-old, who is one of two former Bethlehem Steel engineers in the St. Luke's class. ''In January, I was permanently laid off.''

    Books, who had worked as a refractory engineer, said he discovered there were no job opportunities in his field in the Lehigh Valley.

    Inspired by an aunt and his daughter, both of whom are nurses, Books began to consider nursing as a second career.

    ''This was an opportunity to look for something new,'' he said. ''I'm going from high-temperature inorganics to low-temperature organics.''

    According to Sipple, potential students began to look more favorably at nursing as other businesses and industries suffered in the recent economic downturn. She said the class includes 10 students who were pursuing a second career.

    ''Nursing is needed 24-7 and is always a stable profession,'' she said.

    Heidi Butler, spokeswoman for Northampton Community College, said the college's nursing program, which offers a two-year associate degree, also has seen a dramatic increase.

    Butler said there were 329 applications for the 2002 class, more than double the 151 applications in 2001. She said the school's one-year certification program also saw an increase from 139 students to 258 students.

    ''A lot of adults are looking into nursing because of downsizing,'' she said. ''And a lot of people are saying nursing is something they always wanted to do, and now, since they've been hearing about the nursing shortage, this is the time to do it.''

    She said the school in Bethlehem Township added an evening weekend program in January and is adding a second evening weekend program this fall in response to the increased enrollment.

    Sipple said St. Luke's numbers represent a more than 50 percent increase over the previous year, a welcome turnaround for the nursing school, which had seen young people turn away from nursing because of irregular work hours, heavy patient loads and stressful work conditions.

    Sister Boncy Chalissery said she heard good things about St. Luke's, which inspired her to enroll. The 29-year-old nun from India said she worked as a nurse's aide for five years and was eager to expand her skills.

    ''I love helping people,'' she said.

    Chalissery said she plans to return to India and work in a hospital after she has earned her degree.

    Sipple said although some students, such as Chalissery, don't plan to stay, the school hopes to retain as many graduates as possible.

    ''From Day 1, we begin to bond them to the hospital by offering them student employment, tuition support and other services, hoping they will fall in love with us along the way,'' she said.

    She said the national average for retaining nurses is 70 percent, and St. Luke's is ''very close to that.''

    However, one downside to the increased enrollment is a shortage of nursing faculty. Cedar Crest's Murray said her college, NCC, St. Luke's and Lehigh-Carbon Community College all are having trouble recruiting teachers for the swelling classes.

    ''We just can't match the salaries of the hospitals,'' she said.

    kathy.lauer@mcall.com

    610-861-3627
    Copyright 2002, The Morning Call





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  2. 7 Comments

  3. by   colleen10
    Hi Cargal,

    I found this article and your post interesting because I am a 2nd career nursing student who has been laid off before, even though I decided to go into nursing before I was laid off.

    While I'm glad that many people are pursuing nursing now I can't help but think that to some people this is a "quick fix" and once they are in the trenches for a few years they will get burned out and return to whatever they were doing before, the economy permitting. Nursing is hard work, lots of pressure and it takes a special person to be a nurse. I wonder how many people they will loose after a few years and if we'll be thrown back into another shortage.
  4. by   oramar
    They just can't bring in new people only to have them run out away from bedside screaming because of conditions a few years later. We know it, managment is in denial.
  5. by   sjoe
    And who profits the most from this revolving door? Nursing schools.
  6. by   Norbert Holz
    The economy will continue to keep nursing salaries low and staffing inadequate.

    Employers will claim that there are not enough funds avaliable to convey adequate compensation to employ sufficient staff, pay agency rates or contract with individuals. There will be little change.
  7. by   fergus51
    Even if all our schools in the province run absolutely full nursing classes and they all pass the RN exam, we would still only produce about half of the RNs we need each year. I am not worrying anytime soon
  8. by   Glad2behere
    I agree with the article. I am a product of that myself. In several ways actually, got my BSN in 1977, as a result of many multicausal factors, never really intending to stay. I knew it was a good hedge if everything ever did sour out. IT DID! True to statistics, I was out of it in 2 years.

    Refresher course, pharmacology, oodles of CE's.

    Figure to be back to fighting trim within a year after starting work, find me a cozy little ICU somewhere and make a miserly 55K/annum. Have 4 days off a week, play with that for a year or two till I figure out how to make the most nursing and doing something on the side that brings in a little cash too.

    In about 3 years, should be making 120K, have benefits and time to do what my alter ego prefers.

    I am sure there are more out there just like me, but I think the shortage really stems from doable advances in technology. People are saved all the time now that used to die, requiring more nurses. No telling how many pts we killed back in my early days just giving bi-carb by the gallon seems like, in arrest situations. Completely different outlook on pain management, much more to my liking anyway.

    I dunno, the only reason I am going back to nursing is the pay is finally decent (Burn Nurse 1977, uh $918/mo), not great but survivable.

    Nursing will increase exponentially because health research is feeding it. Heck, when I started nursing hip replacements were a really big deal and most of us couldn't even spell transplant, and there will be new stuff coming down the pike all the time till everthing is known about the human body and I don't think we're in too much danger there.
  9. by   sjoe
    Not that staffing wasn't just as inadequate during the economic "boom times" of the late 1990s.
    In as wealthy an economy as ours is, something like nurse staffing levels is ALWAYS going to be a matter of priorities, rather than a function of GNP or the level of the DOW. And the nurse staffing level is obviously not a very high priority. (Unless, that is, YOU are the nurse or the patient.)

    IMHO
    Last edit by sjoe on Sep 9, '02

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