Nurse shortage worsens in state
Gap increases 38% in 2 years
Susan Laccetti Meyers - Staff
Thursday, February 28, 2002
Georgia's shortage of nurses and other health care personnel has worsened, with metro Atlanta among the hard-hit areas of the state.
The Georgia Hospital Association, which released the study Wednesday, cited the aging baby boom population as a reason for shortages in all health care fields.
The shortage of all nurses --- registered, licensed professional and nursing assistants --- grew 38 percent from 1999 to 2001 in Georgia.
In metro Atlanta, the shortage of registered nurses was 14.9 percent, or almost 1,200. The statewide vacancy rate was 13.3 percent, with the rate running as high as 19.3 percent in the east Georgia/Augusta area.
"The work force shortage has become a major public health issue that threatens the quality of care that Georgia residents receive," said Joseph A. Parker, president of the Georgia Hospital Association. "A dwindling hospital work force opens the doors to so many other problems, including emergency room diversions, financial distress and declining morale."
But the problem isn't only Georgia's. The U.S. Labor Department has estimated that another million nurses will be needed by 2010.
"Applicants aren't coming in to St. Joseph's like they have in the past," said Susan Axelrod, a registered nurse who supervises that hospital's renal, pulmonary and urology surgical unit. "I would love it if we had maximum staff."
At St. Joseph's, Axelrod says nurses work each day not knowing whether they'll be asked to work overtime.
"I'm delighted when I look at the staffing and see only four holes for a week," said the nurse, who has spent 20 years in her career. "There are a lot of days I spend on the phone cajoling people to come in to work."
At DeKalb Medical Center, Patricia Horton, who hires for the critical care and emergency units, blames the shortage of nurses on the increasing volume of patients.
She said the vacancy rate among registered nurses ranges from 10 percent to 14 percent.
"At times it is frustrating because nurses always want to provide the ultimate in care," she said. "A lot of times they can't do it because there isn't enough help. But we try not to overwork them so they leave the profession."
But it's not just nurses. The hospital association's survey showed the vacancy rate among all allied health positions --- including hospital pharmacists, radiographic technologists and respiratory therapists --- has jumped more than 40 percent since 1999.
"I see more utilization of nonregistered and nonlicensed personnel than I'm particularly comfortable with," said Michael Greene, a family practitioner in Macon.
"Some of the things seem very simple, like taking blood pressures," he said. "But an error can make a huge difference in what you do with a patient."
THE NURSING RANKS
> Registered nurses can administer all types of medication. They have the most advanced degree.
> Licensed professional nurses may give oral medications. They may administer medications intravenously if the hospital in which they work permits it.
> Nursing assistants provide basic physical care, including taking blood pressure and temperature and bathing patients.
Source: Staff research
HEALTH CARE OPENINGS
Among health care professionals, a vacancy is an unfilled position for which there is money:
> Georgia hospitals have 2,757 vacant positions for registered nurses, up from 2,184 in 1999.
> The greatest shortage of registered nurses is in pediatrics.
> The greatest shortage of licensed practical nurses is in the eastern sector of the state, where the vacancy rate is 24 percent.
> The shortage of nursing assistants has jumped 61 percent since 1999.
> The vacancy rate for allied health positions, including hospital pharmacists and respiratory therapists, is 11.3 percent, up from 9 percent in 1999.
Source: Georgia Hospital Association
Mar 5, '02
<If they are in such a need for nurses what why doesn't the hospital form a team of qualified memebers to go overseas to recruit.>
they are but theres several reasons why they arent doing MORE of it..... number 1 - it doesnt solve the problem of WHY local nurses wont work at their hospitals, so nursing organizations are fighting to stop them from taking the band-aide approach of recruiting more from overseas, obligating those nurses to work in the same poor conditions we are refusing to work in, instead of just investing in fixing what needs to be fixed for good. Its been proven and documented that there is no shortage in numbers of US nurses right now. Its just a shortage of nurses who are willing to work the current hospital conditions.
Last edit by -jt on Mar 5, '02