nurses in high demand
jo ann clark, rn, msn, edd, , executive director of the louisiana state nurses association, says that there was already a shortage of nurses in some areas of practice and the state before katrina. prior to katrina, many hospitals were lacking nurses for certain shifts and departments, but that problem has significantly worsened in new orleans since katrina. clark says that while nurses have returned to new orleans, many are growing tired of the long shifts and protracted periods of time without any relief.
"as they reach that stressed-out point, i think it's possible that you'll see some more leave. i think it would help out if they could see some relief but i don't think you're seeing that because of the schools
, housing, and safety issues," says clark. "after a while, people reach that exhaustion point."
ochsner health system, which operates seven hospitals in the new orleans area, has seen a steady rebound in nursing staff since the storm but is still short in some areas. oschsner chief nursing officer and senior vice president nancy davis, rn, says that ochsner lost 65 percent of its nursing staff immediately after the storm.
although the main hospital has stabilized and is now to about a two percent turnover rate, davis notes that the west bank campus has huge demands and could open more beds if there were more staff. ochsner is reactivating their regional pools and running campaigns to attract more nurses to the area but she says candidates are expressing concerns about moving to the city.
"it's not all doom and gloom but we've really had to fight the picture that the national media has painted. we're very concerned because of this perception of crime and hopelessness that is out there," says clark.
in ochsner's ed, joseph guarisco, md, said that the situation is bordering on chaos. during peak hours he said there is significant difficulty in meeting patient demands. the ed is down about 12 nurses from an ideal staff of 70 and, while there is some stabilization, he worries about any possible growth in the population. most of the patients the ed sees are uninsured and, due to a lack of emergency departments in the city, there is an increased load.
"we thought almost two years past katrina, things would be a little bit better but, actually, the demand for emergency services has only gotten worse. this crisis of health care in new orleans is actually happening now rather than 18 months ago," says guarisco. ...