Nursing Crisis (Notes the Fact That Nurses Are Opting For Jobs Other Then Nursing)

  1. Interesting article in the Rocky Mountain News:. It was the front page of the Saturday newspaper in Denver(3-16-02):

    Nursing crisis

    Shortage of caregivers races toward crisis

    By Michael Perrault, News Staff Writer

    When it comes to Colorado's nursing shortage, experts see the makings of a perfect storm.
    The state's shrinking pool of nurses hasn't kept pace with a 30.5 percent state population increase to 4.3 million in a decade. And 1.5 million more residents are projected by 2020, the fastest-growing segment being baby boomers who will require more health care.

    The average age of Colorado nurses is 47, and nursing-school faculty average between 50 and 55, setting the stage for a retirement boom at the worst possible time, said Patricia Moritz, acting dean at the University of Colorado School of Nursing.

    "The full brunt of the shortage isn't here yet," Moritz said.

    Clouding the picture are nine new Front Range hospitals on the drawing board and several billion dollars in expansion projects, creating more beds and services that will require more nurses.

    Meanwhile, the state's hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other providers struggle to fill some 2,500 vacancies for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified nurse's aides.

    Hospital groups such as Exempla Healthcare and health plans like Kaiser Permanente are pouring significantly more dollars into salaries, benefits and recruiting efforts. It's a costly race to plug work-force gaps that have reached 15 percent to 21 percent for certain specialties. Employers have begun looking for relief overseas.

    Some area nurses report that up to 60 percent of their departments are staffed by temporary agencies. Hospitals and other health care providers pay a premium to companies such as Denver-based Fastaff and U.S. Nursing Corp. that dole out $35 to $50 an hour to nurses who take on temporary assignments or fill in during strikes and crisis situations.

    Chronic understaffing is pushing some nurses to exhaustion.

    They find themselves juggling mounting duties, from checking blood pressure and tending to recovering patients' wounds to fetching water and juice, completing volumes of paperwork, emptying trash or carefully monitoring side effects of anesthesia.

    Tiring 12-hour shifts often don't end because nurses are asked to work overtime. Stress builds, prompting nurses to jump ship or walk away from the profession. A two-year study of Colorado's nursing market shows more than 8,000 of Colorado's 43,000 licensed RNs have sought jobs outside the field.

    "The reality is if we don't really start effectively addressing these issues now, we'll fall further and further behind," said Sue Carparelli, president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence.

    The center is one of numerous initiatives statewide that mark a concerted effort by Colorado's health-care community to band together as never before to explore solutions to the crisis.


    All-out recruiting


    Telltale signs that Colorado is experiencing a serious nursing shortage include a wave of health care job fairs, pages of help-wanted ads and hundreds of job postings on health care provider Web sites.

    On a recent Sunday, Clear Creek Care Center in Westminster offered $2,500 signing bonuses. Visiting Nurse Association, Planned Parenthood and the Boulder County Jail touted benefits packages.

    Incentives range from $38-an-hour salaries for RNs to extra shift bonuses and paid certification. There are $25 monthly travel allowances, $50 stipends for perfect attendance, $300 quarterly performance bonuses, free medical, dental and life insurance.

    The much-needed pay increases come after salaries for hospital staff nurses nationwide increased by only 2 percent annually from 1996 to 2000, said Susan Bianchi-Sand, director of the United American Nurses, AFL-CIO, the labor arm of the American Nurses Association.

    "We can't hope to end today's nursing shortage without addressing the root problems -- poor work and care conditions and low pay," Bianchi-Sand said.

    Increasing awareness about the shortage over the past year has brought about significant pay increases and a movement to improve conditions in Colorado, experts say.

    "Usually, if you want something bad enough, you'll pay for it," said Patricia Prescott, work-force consultant for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Colleagues in Caring project.

    Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center, hamstrung by federal laws limiting pay and its ability to recruit in a highly competitive market, plans to roll out a program to repay up to $44,000 in nursing student loans, said Randy Emeterio, VA spokesman in Denver, along with numerous other benefits.

    Nurses are glad to see salary and benefit improvements, but many are more excited about other kinds of changes.

    North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley touts low patient-to-nurse ratios, on-site child care, flexible scheduling, relocation assistance for nurses and spouses, and shared decision-making with doctors and staff.

    The fact that employers have begun asking nurses to help define how medical care is delivered is an important and encouraging sign, said Kristina Wenzel, RN and project director for the Colorado Alliance for Nursing Workforce Development Opportunity.

    Giving nurses more autonomy, professional respect, cutting paperwork loads, streamlining documentation processes, and requiring less overtime will go a long way in luring and retaining nurses, Wenzel said.

    Such improvements are vital, but no single activity or combination of activities will solve the problem even in a year, Carparelli said. "We are a long time getting here; it's going to take us a long time to catch up."


    Future initiatives

    The nonprofit group HealthOne Alliance served as a catalyst for a two-year study of Colorado's nursing shortage. It provided seed money to launch the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence, which Carparelli hopes will establish partnerships to tear down barriers that otherwise might seem insurmountable.

    Carparelli wants to bring together "good thinkers, good strategists and complex systems to leverage many resources." Over time the group's goals are to reduce the shortage, improve training, increase job satisfaction, slash turnover and make many other improvements.

    Other initiatives are under way. With the help of nurses like Deana Gallegos, president of the local chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, the health care community hopes to recruit more minorities, young students and men.

    That's critical as Colorado's pool of nurses and nursing faculty ages.

    "(Nursing) is a physically demanding job, and people aren't going to stay at the bedside until they're 65 or 70," Carparelli said.

    Colorado nurses cite drugmaker Johnson & Johnson's $20 million national TV ad campaign as an important corporate collaborative model aimed at elevating the image of nursing and attracting younger prospects. Dubbed the Campaign for Nursing's Future, ads feature the tag line "Be a Nurse; Dare to Care."

    Likewise, University of Colorado Hospital is running TV ads simply saying "thanks" to nurses for their sacrifices.

    Colorado nurses are watching legislation in California that could set a national standard by mandating nurse-staffing ratios. Federal and state laws could also funnel public dollars to recruit and train nurses.

    For Cindy Adamek, a 19-year veteran nurse at Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the shortage isn't unlike shortages she's experienced. As 16 percent of the VA hospital's more than 420 nurses leave for other jobs, she finds the true rewards in providing care for grateful veterans like her father and uncles who served in America's wars.

    Adamek is skeptical that this shortage will be resolved until society puts more value on nursing. Until then, it'll continue to take a very human toll.

    "You have patients where it takes two people to get them dressed, but you don't have two people," she said. "How do you provide good care when there aren't enough caregivers."


    March 16, 2002

    Copyright 2002, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.
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  2. 16 Comments

  3. by   live4today
    Originally posted by nightngale1998
    Interesting article in the Rocky Mountain News:. It was the front page of the Saturday newspaper in Denver(3-16-02):



    "...Adamek is skeptical that this shortage will be resolved until society puts more value on nursing. Until then, it'll continue to take a very human toll. March 16, 2002
    Copyright 2002, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.
    AMEN!!! THIS IS THE BEST AND TRUEST STATEMENT OF ALL!
  4. by   -jt
    <<The much-needed pay increases come after salaries for hospital staff nurses nationwide increased by only 2 percent annually from 1996 to 2000, said Susan Bianchi-Sand, director of the United American Nurses, AFL-CIO, the labor arm of the American Nurses Association.

    "WE CAN'T HOPE TO END TODAYS NURSING SHORTAGE WITHOUT ADDRESSING THE ROOT PROBLEMS -- POOR WORK AND CARE CONDITIONS AND LOW PAY," Bianchi-Sand said. >>


    Exactly. So now when will the employers end the stand-off & start paying attention to that?
  5. by   nightingale
    jt.. someday soon.... I hope...

    This article irked me though... It was (obviously) written by someone who either didn't know what they were talking about or made blatent suggestions that there was a "quick fix" to the nursing needs.

    Geech! And the title.. oh please!

    B.
  6. by   -jt
    Curious as to what about the article made you feel that way. I thought it hit some nails directly on the head. But I read it quickly so I might have missed some things.
  7. by   Hardknox
    There are more than enough nurses out there. There are just not enough nurses that are willing to work in the deplorable hospital settings. There is not enough $ in the world to make me go back to understaffed, unsafe, unfulfilling and disrespecting hospital nursing. Until the hospitals and insurance companies stop bottom lining health care, giving all the big bucks to the CEO's and nothing to the patients and the bedside healthcare workers there will be a nursing shortage.
  8. by   P_RN
    -jt you find the "best articles"! I was so disappointed in the article our local paper put out. The interviewed ONE student, ONE part time chemo nurse and ONE assistant clinic manager!

    I do wonder with those FIVE hospitals on the drawing board, WHO exactly issued the certificate of need for them? Who is going to staff them...or does it not matter, because they will just mandate the few nurses they trick into going to work there?

    Here we have a wonderful Catholic hospital that is tip-top in Cardiac....that is what they do most, and do the best.

    Now the Big-Boy hospital all of a sudden is planning a cardiac...not unit.........BUILDING! They want to be "it" in the heart world. (1) I wonder WHO will staff it. and (2) how they plan to be the BEST in all the myriad of things they attempt. It seems that there would be enough to do without trying to dilute that one service. BUT guess what? They got their certificate of need.....grrrrrrr.
  9. by   nightingale
    Yikes....

    I do not know if I had a upcoming senior moment or what.... I was confusing this article with another one on the Board about "Nursing the best Kept Secret". Yikes.. how embarrassing...

    I thought of erasing my post.. but you know what.. I am human and I will use this as a learning tool... lol. haste makes waste.

    You are right jt.... this article is hitting the nail on the head. I was pleased to see it on the front page and not jsut one of the run of the mill fair of baby boomers aging so nursing has a problem based on simply that.

    The employee quality leaves me spinning somedays. I work at so many different facilities and see such variation with the quality of treatment of the staff. It varies from wonderful to cruel. I do not return to those facilities who have the later treatment. How lucky I am to have that choice.

    Ooopsy me....

    thanks jt for making me look at it again....

    Bonnie
  10. by   -jt
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    Last edit by -jt on Mar 20, '02
  11. by   -jt
    <-jt you find the "best articles"! I was so disappointed in the article our local paper put out. The interviewed ONE student, ONE part time chemo nurse and ONE assistant clinic manager! >

    Thanks but I cant take the credit for finding that one.

    About your disappointment - TELL THE EDITOR! Send him a note about it.

    The more they hear from nurses, the more they pay attention to the issue & the more they write about it. The more they write about it, the more they get the story straight to the public. The more the public is educated, the faster things will turn around.

    I got so sick & tired of reading articles in my local paper that never got it right that I started sending short letters to the editors every time, telling them they missed the boat & clearing a few things up for them. All of the sudden, they started calling me at home for my comments & now they call me BEFORE they write any article that mentions anything at all about patients and patients care... not even just nurses! I was even called at 10pm one night not too long ago for my comments on a new law that the gov signed that night adding a cigarette tax to be used to increase salaries for UAPs & help ease the shortage of those healthworkers. LOL! (Of course I was all for it)

    Recently one of their reporters interviewed me for a half hour about why nurses are leaving the bedsides. And they FINALLY wrote an article that got it completely right. Which reminds me, I have to write the editors & thank them for that one.
  12. by   nightingale
    You are exactly right. This dialogue alone will shed light to others reading this post.

    Not to sound too sappy... but I have learned so much from this BB. You, Karen, Jennny and some others are my mentors as I go foward in my career and dreams of being a nurse.

    At times, it is a struggle to keep positive about nursing. I truly love it. At times, I am not treated fairly (to say the least). Excessive patient load, mandatory overtime, and all the other unsafe practices mandated by managers are what are killing nursing. Their bottom line money ideology is killing nursing for those who were once "in the field" and have now given up. It is a struggle for me so I know it is a struggle for other nurses (past and present).

    I will write to the editor of this artcle and the other article that I was criticizing. Thank you for this suggestion.

    B.
  13. by   Pam Johnson
    Bandaid remedies/surface antibiotics for a hemorrhaging & festering wound getting out of out of control. We need to take action. United we stand divided we fall.
  14. by   -jt
    Nurses are taking action - in state legislatures all around the country and with Congress. And in organizing at their facilities, standing up for whats right for themselves & their pts, insisting on contracts that address pt & nurse safety & abolish abusive management practices - even going on strike for as long as it takes to get it done. The little things like responding to the media all help educate the public & the legislators too. It helps to keep the issue in the forefront & that impacts on how responsive the legislators will be on the laws we need.
    Its action from all sides.

    Theres an old union saying: United we stand - divided we beg.

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