Hospitals in Maryland and Washington, D.C., say they are working on several solutions to the deepening nurse shortage, but that they're not enough.
......Nearly half of its mid-Atlantic members reported that emergency rooms were operating over their capacity, and 60 percent of those hospitals were forced to divert ambulances to other facilities, according to the association.
"Diversions are a real symptom of what's happening with the workforce shortage," said Christina Pearson, a spokeswoman for the association. "The nursing shortage is one of the larger needs at this point."
Even as health care systems reach out to prospective nursing students, nursing schools are struggling to rebuild their programs to meet future demand. Many curtailed their offerings during the 1990s when nursing positions were cut as managed care forced the restructuring of hospital services.
The thinking was that a shift toward primary and preventive care and shorter hospital stays would result in a healthier population and less spending on acute care. What officials didn't take into account was the aging of the baby boomer population, which in recent years has produced a larger number of sicker patients in hospitals.
Next year, the American Hospital Association projects, the national nursing vacancy rate could rise to 15 percent.....