Louisiana: Nursing-shortage crisis seen

  1. Published on 2/12/02
    Lawmakers want to tackle problem
    Capitol news bureau

    Louisiana is facing critical shortages of nurses and other medical professionals, and two key lawmakers want Gov. Mike Foster to do something about it.

    Sen. Tom Schedler and Rep. Rodney Alexander, chairmen of legislative health committees, are asking Foster to address the problem in a planned special legislative session beginning in March.

    The lawmakers and others warned that expanding opportunities for women outside of nursing have slowed the supply of new nurses, creating a nursing work force that is aging and sometimes dangerously overworked.

    The shortage in that and other health fields could result in cutbacks in patient services and unsafe conditions for patients and health workers, they said.

    Schedler, R-Slidell, and Alexander, D-Quitman, said addressing the shortage is consistent with Foster's goal of using the special session to enhance economic development through creation of good-paying jobs.

    "I don't think it's a stretch to argue that this is economic development. It's an existing industry. Certainly health care for our citizens is an important item," Schedler said.

    Foster aide Andy Kopplin said the administration is aware of the problem and is awaiting specific proposals.

    "We are very interested in seeing what we can do," Kopplin said.

    As part of its economic-development push, Schedler said, the administration is pushing gene therapy and a cancer center in New Orleans so the state can be on the cutting edge of medical advancements.

    "But we need a work force that will be able to sustain it," Schedler said.

    Schedler said the New Orleans area has a nursing shortage approaching 1,000.

    "And there are 5,000 to 6,000 (nursing vacancies) statewide that we could fill today," he said.

    Schedler said it is not just nurses. There are also shortages of pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and radiology and medical technicians, he said.

    The lawmakers are working with the Louisiana Hospital Association and the CARE Coalition to develop a plan for administration consideration as it plans the agenda for a planned March 25-April 19 special session.

    Various ideas are being discussed, including:

    *Grant and loan programs to help those interested in training and working in health jobs with shortages.
    *More emphasis in vocational-technical schools that train many health workers.
    8Changes in degree requirements to encourage more people to study nursing and related fields.
    *Establishing a major state commission to address the problem.

    LHA executive John Matessino urges a joint venture involving key players in the private sector and representatives of the state departments of Labor, Health and Hospitals and Economic Development as well as the Board of Regents, which oversees higher education.

    "We know we need to do career recruitment, education strategies," Matessino said.

    "We are trying to get the message out that health care is an industry that employs a lot of people who pay a lot of taxes," he said.

    Matessino said a survey is being done to get hard numbers on health-job vacancies as of March 1.

    At Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center, X-ray technicians seem to be the most difficult to find, and "respiratory therapists are right up there," chief executive Robert Davidge said.

    Davidge said complicating the shortage of pharmacists is that the only pharmacy school in the state -- University of Louisiana at Monroe -- has expanded its degree program from four to five years of study.

    "They aren't graduating anyone for two years," he said.

    Meanwhile, more and more pharmacies are opening, Davidge said.

    Louisiana Nursing Home Association director Joe Donchess said every nursing home in the state could use four more nurses' aides; one out of two could use a licensed practical nurse and at least one out of five a registered nurse.

    In addition, "There is a big turnover rate with nurses' aides," Donchess said.Fewer people are going into nursing these days, he said. "Our schools are not producing the numbers," Schedler agreed. "It's putting tremendous strains on the system. It causes errors."

    Schedler said health professionals end up working long hours under stressful conditions."That could be deadly," he said. "We are going to have a worse situation in five years of almost critical proportions," Schedler said.

    Schedler said there is an aging population of nurses and an insufficient number of new nurses are coming into the work force.

    According to the hospital association, of nearly 37,000 registered nurses living in Louisiana, more than half are over age 40 and only about 5,000 are under age 30. Schedler said wings of hospitals will have to close.

    "I've been talking to nursing homes and hearing the same story," he said.At one time nursing and teaching were the main jobs of young women entering the work force, but that has been changing. "Young girls have a lot more opportunities," he said, with more pay, better working conditions and hours.
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  3. by   Rudedog2308
    here it is the year 2006 and nothing has gotten any better. worse perhaps. our management team likes to say, "well, nothing is going to change". what kind of dummy answer is that? i sure would like to hear some of them say something along the lines of: yes, we know you are bending over backwards for us and we certainly do appreciate it. and so now we are currently looking into some creative staffing measures and some better health care benefits. oh, and by the way we have a meeting set up for the nurses and the hospital administrator so you can discuss the important issues on your mind.: as for me, i would find this kind of reply rather like a rope thrown to save a drowning man. but how surely i know that a hospital administrator has absolutely no idea what in the world a nurse really does while she is on duty.
    to paraphrase what another guest here said: "no nurses, no hospitals." our ltac has just lost at least 14 staff members to another local ltac. good staff members too. i don't know all their reasons but one is for more creative scheduling so that she can continue her schooling to become an lpn. the other that i know of is due to managements attitude to our requests, pleas, and complaints about the nurse to patient ratio. no one minds working hard ever, but one can only stand to be a pack mule for a short time, as in that time the mule becomes tired and eventually ill. and lastly (of what has turned out to be somewhat of a rant...please forgive me.....) that rn who is leaving will be making $8000.00 more per year. she will be making more $ with her hand full of years as an rn than i will with my soon to be twenty six years of experience as an rn.
  4. by   sjt9721
    Quote from NRSKarenRN
    Published on 2/12/02

    *Grant and loan programs to help those interested in training and working in health jobs with shortages.
    *More emphasis in vocational-technical schools that train many health workers.
    8Changes in degree requirements to encourage more people to study nursing and related fields.
    *Establishing a major state commission to address the problem.
    My concern is with the quality of the workforce. Changing degree requirements...??? We need a lot of nurses in a hurry so we'll change the requirements. Yeah, that's a great bandaid of a solution. Are we going to make it easier? Shorter? Does a nurse really even need college classes? Let's just give 'em a self-study packet & make sure they clean up nice. Next thing the lawmakers will want the NCLEX changed so it's easier for these new nurses that they've produced.

    (Please don't flame. The above was written while my "Play Nice with Others" toggle was in the OFF position!)
  5. by   Rudedog2308
    dear sjt,no flames here.......don't you know that all us nurses just get our lisences out of a cracker jack box? no? well next time you go to a carnival look around and see if you think a few of those cute furry little monkeys are missing. had a doc tell me that any trained monkey could monitor ob's in active labour.

    heck of a note, huh?:stone
  6. by   TheCommuter
    Quote from Rudedog2308
    Had a doc tell me that any trained monkey could monitor OB's in active labour.
    There are many doctors out there who do not think so highly of nurses (or anyone else, for that matter). I can make this conjecture based on the numerous snide comments, snickers, sarcastic facial expressions, occasional screaming, and throwing of small objects by many doctors.

    By the way, I wouldn't allow any monkey to monitor my OB/GYN needs!
  7. by   GingerSue
    [quote] screaming and throwing of small objects [quote]

    what are they throwing?

    and how was this handled? And how should it be handled?