Proof There's No Nursing Shortage: Show RN's the MONEY

  1. This is a case study in how the nursing shortage is really a myth. When you pay RN’s really well and give them great benefits … the shortage, for the most part, disappears. The real solution to the nursing shortage is paying RN’s more money.

    This post is going to be long, but I think you’ll find it interesting. Just a little over a year ago, the California Department of Corrections had an RN staff vacancy rate of 40 percent. However, since the level of care was substandard, inmates had filed a lawsuit where a federal judge and receiver took over the prison healthcare system.

    To improve the level of care, the judge ordered pay raises last year where corrections RN’s made nearly $80K a year with full state benefits, which are excellent … much better, actually, than most private hospitals. Despite claims that they’re doing everything they can to attract nurses, many hospitals (at least in my area) have actually cut back on benefits (especially pensions) in the last couple of years.

    With the first court ordered pay raise, the vacancy rate dropped from 40 percent to 15 percent, which is about the same as staff vacancy rates at California hospitals in my area. That’s a 25 percent reduction in staff vacancies in just a few months. And, this is in California where we supposedly have less nurses per capita than any state other than Alaska.

    But the judge didn’t stop there. Since the average California RN already makes more than $70K a year on average, and the judge wanted the prisons to be fully staffed, he ordered yet another pay raise … nearly $90K to start at most facilities beginning this year and, even more pay in the Bay area where the pay and cost of living is higher. Once you put some time in, the pay gets up to $100K at most facilities.

    As you know, to make that kind of money with a lot of hospital RN jobs it’s not unusual to have to work two jobs and/or a ton of overtime as well as forfeiting benefits like health insurance, etc. But corrections RN’s did not have to forfeit any benefits in this case. And, while $100K may not be great pay in the Bay Area, it’s fantastic pay in other areas of the state, including where I live.

    The result? Not only were the five state prisons in my area fully staffed with RN’s BUT … I discovered that over 3,000 RN’s are now waiting to get hired by the Department of Corrections statewide! In my particular area, each prison had a waiting list of 200-300 RN’s! With a few exceptions, the only available positions were in more rural, isolated areas which have always been difficult to staff.

    Could you ever imagine 3,000 RN’s standing in line waiting for jobs at hospitals? Not in a million years but, that’s what’s happened with California Corrections in just a few months because they’re paying so well.

    Here’s yet another example of no real nursing shortage. When I realized that the state prisons in my area were fully staffed and there was a waiting list for those jobs, I also applied for positions at the mental health department because they, at least, had some openings. While those RN’s got some but not all of the court ordered pay raises that the corrections RN’s did … the pay and benefits were still much better than local hospitals in my area.

    BUT … when I went to the qualifying exam, I discovered that I was competing with 75 RN’s for eight positions. 75 RN’s! That means there were at least 9 RN’s competing for each position. Could you ever imagine 75 RN’s competing for vacancies at any hospital?

    It was even worse at the prisons, where the pay is higher. One of the HR staffers told me that when rare openings do occur, there’s at least 30 RN’s competing for each position. 30 RN’s! It was quite a shock, actually. Usually, I could walk into any private hospital and get a job tomorrow, but definitely NOT in this case because the pay and benefits are so much better.

    I think the court ordered pay raises have proven that if you don’t nickel and dime RN’s to death and … when you eliminate a bunch of hospital middle men who line their own pockets at RN’s expense … the nursing shortage, for the most part, disappears.

    P.S. I did eventually get hired on by corrections in spite of the waiting list but, I had to jump through a bunch of hoops … including getting some prison nursing experience that apparently helped me stand out from dozens of other competing applicants. I just find it ironic that with the supposed nursing shortage in California, I really had to bend over backwards and work every angle I could to get this job.

    :typing
    Last edit by Sheri257 on May 5, '07
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    About Sheri257

    Joined: Nov '03; Posts: 4,389; Likes: 153
    RN

    68 Comments

  3. by   UM Review RN
    Thanks for sharing that Sheri. I believe a lot of our staffing problems would go away with the right financial inducement, too. I think that key here is not only the salary, but the fact that they wanted to "fully staff" the facilities as well as pay a good (not just bare minimum) wage with good benes.

    Hospitals pay travelers pretty well, also, yet they're always crying for help. So IMO, the staffing ratios have to be improved and the benefit packages need to be better, as well as offering a good salary.
  4. by   Sheri257
    Quote from Angie O'Plasty, RN
    Hospitals pay travelers pretty well, also, yet they're always crying for help.
    When the state was figuring out how they were going to pay for all of this, they did a cost analysis and found they were paying a whopping $67 an hour for registry nurses for a total of $90 million a year because they were so short.

    So they decided to cut back on registry and pay the staff nurses more instead. Ironically, even with better state benefits, this isn't going to cost the state any more money so ...

    I think this proves that hospitals should pay staff more instead of hiring registry/travelers.

    :typing
    Last edit by Sheri257 on May 5, '07
  5. by   justme1972
    Do you have the link to the article?
  6. by   Sheri257
    Quote from Hopefull2009
    Do you have the link to the article?
    There's no article per se. A lot of this is based on my own personal experience and research on the issue. However, this CDC press release talks about the staff vacancy rates, how the pay raises helped reduce vacancies and how much the state was paying for registry nurses:

    http://www.cya.ca.gov/Communications/press20061017.html

    :typing
  7. by   justme1972
    Interesting article. Thanks for posting that.

    Corrections jobs...:bowingpur <~~~This is how I feel about people who do that type of work. I couldn't...not for $100K not for $200K. Granted, people in prisons do need medical care. I especially think things should be better for those women that are pregnant, because there is a totally innocent child that needs to be protected at all costs. Mental health care, to me, is more for the safety of the people that work there.

    However, on the flip side, things shouldn't be better for people that are in prison than in the private sector, in regards to healthcare. Unless they are pregnant, I personally don't care if they get quality care or not...that's part of the price you pay for breaking the law.

    Just my .02
  8. by   SICU Queen
    How very interesting!!

    I do know that my old hospital pays more than any other in the city, and our vacancy rate all of the ICUs was 2 positions. We never really had any trouble keeping the place staffed.

    When I went to interview for my case manager job at another facility and they found out where I was working, they told me up front that there was no way they could compete with the hourly rate I was getting... lol... I told them that they might not need so many nurses if they would/could.

    (I took the job anyway for the experience, but I have that luxury. Not everyone does.)

    Thanks so much for the info. Nice post!
  9. by   Sheri257
    Quote from Hopefull2009
    Interesting article. Thanks for posting that.

    Corrections jobs...:bowingpur <~~~This is how I feel about people who do that type of work. I couldn't...not for $100K not for $200K. Granted, people in prisons do need medical care. I especially think things should be better for those women that are pregnant, because there is a totally innocent child that needs to be protected at all costs. Mental health care, to me, is more for the safety of the people that work there.

    However, on the flip side, things shouldn't be better for people that are in prison than in the private sector, in regards to healthcare. Unless they are pregnant, I personally don't care if they get quality care or not...that's part of the price you pay for breaking the law.

    Just my .02
    Regardless of how people may feel about corrections nursing, the point is ...

    They dramatically raised the pay and now 3,000 RN's are waiting for jobs!

    No nursing shortage!

    :typing
  10. by   casi
    I'm curious about where all of these nurses are coming from though. They can't just be jumping out of not-currently-working-as-a-nurse-wood-work. Chances are they are coming from other areas of health care. If hospitals and LTC started offering wages and benefits that are competitive with the prison systems would the prisons find themselves with vancancies again?
  11. by   Sheri257
    Quote from casi
    I'm curious about where all of these nurses are coming from though. They can't just be jumping out of not-currently-working-as-a-nurse-wood-work. Chances are they are coming from other areas of health care. If hospitals and LTC started offering wages and benefits that are competitive with the prison systems would the prisons find themselves with vancancies again?
    It could be but ... when you consider the fact that 500,000 licensed RN's choose NOT to work in this country ...

    Better pay and benefits would probably be enough of an incentive to get a lot them back into the work force.

    Instead of nickle and dime raises that barely keep up with inflation.

    :typing
    Last edit by Sheri257 on May 5, '07
  12. by   MajorAl
    [QUOTE=Sheri257;2189069]It could be but ... when you consider the fact that 500,000 licensed RN's choose NOT to work in this country ...

    Better pay and benefits would probably be enough of an incentive to get them back into the work force.

    Okay, I've been a RN since 1975. I have seen at least 4 "nursing shortages" in my career. The responses have always been the same, the schools bend over backwards to create new nurses and the "shortage" gets worse. Then one or two employers say to hell with it and do a dramatic increase in pay. Within a year or two the other employers have aligned themselves with the higher paying employers and there is no nursing shortage anymore. When I started working there wasn't a shortage of nurses and starting pay (in today's dollars) was about 15 to 16 dollars an hour. New Grads can start for the state of Wisconsin at 25 dollars an hour, 120 hours vacation time, 36 hours personal holiday and 72 hours legal holiday time. Plus weekend, PM, and holiday differentials. We do not currently have a "nursing shortage" here or at the other hospitals in the area. Now I predict that in 2 to 5 years, wages will have stagnated and working conditions will not have improved and many nurses will drop out of nursing. One thing that will impact adversely and possibly cause a true nursing shortage is that many of the "Boomer" nurses (including your's truly) will not just drop out, they will retire completely. Nurses are only valuable when there is a lack of them. Take care of yourselves because I'm retiring in August. :hatparty: Alan
  13. by   Sheri257
    Besides ... if somebody else offered that same money and benefits ...

    And with 3,000 RN's waiting for jobs ...

    Seems like that would fill a lot of vacancies since obviously those 3,000 RN's would probably take the better pay and benefits if it was available elsewhere.

    Especially if they could start making better money sooner instead of waiting.

    :typing
    Last edit by Sheri257 on May 5, '07
  14. by   silleangyl
    Hello Sheri,

    While your post is very interesting and I think it is great the the California Department of Corrections is treating its nurses so well, I don't think this situation necessarily indicates that there is no nursing shortage. I think what it does indicate is that it is a well-known fact that the California Deartment of Corrections is a great place to work so lots of nurses would like to work there.

    What could be happening in this situation is the California Department of Corrections is treating their nurses really well so they obviously want to stay, therefore, exacerbating the nursing shortage in other hospitals. Is there any data that looks at who (working nurses or nurses that previously were not working) is applying for these jobs and if the nursing shortage has become more dire in other hospitals in Californis or if it has stayed the same? So it seems to me that another likely conclusion is that the California Department of Corrections is sucking nurses away from other hospitals and could possibly be making the nurses shortage worse for other hospitals.

    I do have a comparison example to show what I mean. I am currently a science teacher (planning on making the switch to nursing shortly). Nationwide there is a pretty bad shortage of science teachers. Honestly, I am not even certified to teach but had no trouble finding a teaching position. There is a school district near me that is well known for paying their teachers REALLY well and giving them EXCELLENT benefits. Despite the fact that there is a national science teacher shortage, this district has no trouble filling their positions. So, if you looked at this district alone, you would never be able to tell that there is a shortage of science teachers. If everyone paid teachers as well as this district, then this district would find it harder to find science teachers because there would not be as much of an incentive to teach there.

    I suspect this could be the same situation with nursing in California. If everyone paid as well as the Cal. Dept. of Corrections then there would not be as much of an incentive for nurses to go out of their way to get these jobs and the Cal. Dept. of Corrections would find it harder to fill positions simply because ther are not enough nurses to go around.

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