First published: Monday, October 29, 2001
In the months since launching its new online service to recruit nurses, St. Peter's Hospital has seen its vacancy rate drop from a high of 20 percent to 3 percent.
"That's only one part of it,'' said hospital spokesman Elmer Streeter about the online program (http://rnjobs.stpetershealthcare.org/
). "We've done a lot of stuff. We increased wages, we did focus groups, we tried different types of recruitment.''
Hospitals across the country have been scrambling to find enough nurses to staff their beds, with many facilities citing double-digit vacancy rates. With fewer nurses entering the profession, hospitals have been struggling to find new ways to recruit and retain nurses.
In January, St. Peter's came up with an idea: a Web site that allows nurses to bid on shifts and wages. Organizers hoped the site would help the hospital save money by minimizing the amount of management time needed to fill shifts and by getting competitive bids from nurses who might otherwise work elsewhere, including temporary agencies, doctors' offices and HMOs.
"It has helped,'' Streeter said. "Our nursing supervisors are spending a lot less time trying to fill shifts.''
An even bigger help has been the hospital's success in hiring new nurses. Over the past few months, Streeter said the hospital has hired 75 to 80 new nurses. But he said the ongoing nursing shortage presents a long-term challenge for which there is no quick fix.
"We certainly don't think we're over the hump,'' Streeter said. "This is a problem that's going to be with us for a long time.''
Anne Schott of the New York State Nurses' Association said many hospitals have a large number of nurses who are approaching retirement age. Her union has been pushing state lawmakers to adopt scholarship programs to encourage new people to enter the profession.
"We have to recruit new people,'' she said.
-- Sylvia Wood