Nursing Shortage?

  1. An article found in the recent archives of the Cheyenne paper. Comment made by the WNA states 18% of nurses are busy doing something other than nursing. Here is the article:

    Shortage becoming critical

    Joanne Bowlby
    Wyoming Tribune-Eagle

    Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
    CHEYENNE - Long waits in emergency rooms and rushed doctor's office visits are just some of the annoying effects for patients from the national nursing shortage.

    But more critical problems are beginning to surface.

    School secretaries are dispensing medications like Prozac and Ritalin when the nurse is not available.

    Nursing home patients aren't always getting the personalized care for which they pay.

    Hospitals may be the hardest hit. A recent survey shows that a shortage of nurses in hospitals can strongly affect the chances of patients suffering adverse reactions like gastrointestinal bleeding and pneumonia. Researchers said staffing problems could be a factor in thousands of deaths annually.

    Nurses say the shortage is becoming so severe that it threatens patient care.

    "It increases the risk of something serious happening and increases the hospital's liability," said Michelle, an emergency room nurse at United Medical Center-West. "As nurses, we don't want to see anything happen, but it could."

    ER nurses don't use their last names for safety reasons.

    "The nursing shortage is a big ball of problems," Michelle added. "When patient numbers increase, the number of nurses needs to increase, but I don't think that's happening."

    Part of the problem is there aren't many nurses out there.

    But Wyoming Nurses Association President Toni Decklever said a bigger problem is the 18 percent of registered nurses who are not working in the field.

    "Where are they?" she said. "Delivering packages or stocking shelves."

    They're in other jobs where the pay and work conditions are better, she said.

    Patients suffer the consequences. Nurses from around Cheyenne say they are frustrated and can't give the level of care they think patients deserve because there are more patients to see and fewer nurses to help with the workload.

    How did it get this bad?

    There are 77 million aging Baby Boomers who will need medical care in increasing numbers in the coming years.

    With only 44 million people in Generation X, all industries are finding it difficult to find qualified workers. Nursing homes have been hit particularly hard.

    Not only has the number of people enrolling in nursing schools dropped over the past decade, the number of people who need a nursing home has risen significantly.

    "As less people are available to work, we are aging," said Kathy Sanford, director of nursing at Harrison Memorial Hospital in Bremerton, Wash. "It's a double whammy.

    "This is the smallest job pool since the 1960s. We are competing with others that are going to have shortages too."

    Sanford said in Washington state, less than 9 percent of the nursing staff is under the age of 30, and more than half of the work force is scheduled to retire within the next 15 years.

    Washington's statistics mirror the nation, she said.

    Industry issues addressed

    Many students are opting for professions other than nursing, Sanford said, because "the work is really, really hard."

    She said the industry as a whole needs to address the problem and change the image of nursing to attract students into the profession.

    But she said changing the image isn't enough.

    "It's no good if once they get in, it's no fun," Sanford said.

    Carol Polifroni, dean of the Connecticut School of Nursing, agrees. She said studies have shown people shape their ideas about careers as early as age 6.

    The industry is suffering from treating its staff poorly, she said.

    Long shifts produce exhausted mothers. Polifroni said she worries that the negative impact could have lasting effects.

    "Mom's a nurse now and comes home from work exhausted," she said. "The natural response is, 'I don't want to do that. I don't want to work so hard for so little money.' "

    Some possible solutions

    Both short-term and long-term solutions must be developed, she said. Among her suggestions:

    Get as many certified nurses back into the work force as possible.

    Get high school students interested in nursing.

    Increase salaries.

    But Polifroni said the most important change needed is to give greater respect and autonomy to the profession.

    Excessive paperwork and mandatory overtime frustrates nurses and makes them feel less like caregivers and more like robots, she said.

    Polifroni has asked the Connecticut Legislature to recognize the work nurses do and provide some incentives for nurses to work in the state.

    Loan forgiveness, scholarships and low-interest mortgages for nurses are just a few of the measures she has proposed. A legislative committee is looking into those ideas.

    "Connecticut is ahead of the curve," Polifroni said. "We have a joint task force that is bringing all the parties to the table.

    "The plan needs to be multi-pronged and carefully constructed. Recruitment, debt forgiveness, scholarships - all have to happen at once. Money alone won't solve this."

    Sanford said any community can develop a similar task force.

    Led by the local Rotary club, her community has assembled a group to look into solutions to stave off further shortages.

    "It's not just a hospital problem or a nursing problem; this is a community problem," Sanford said. "Things have to change."

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  3. by   RNKitty
    Interesting. Until last year, I was one of the 9% in Washington under 30. Know why? For several years in the early 90's, the hospitals were laying off nurses and hiring aides. New grads had no residency or preceptorship programs in the hospitals. Even some of the experienced nurses couldn't find jobs. The only option for new grads to work in the hospital was to LEAVE THE STATE. Way to shoot yourself in the foot, Washington.
  4. by   -jt
    That was happening all over the country. There wasnt any state you could go to to escape it. You could only leave nursing to do that & many were forced to do just that. Thats why this "shoratge" is not the same as others. This one was manufactured by the hospitals themselves.

    In the 90's managed care took a strong hold & cut reimbursements. Hospitals looked to make up the difference by cutting costs. They brought in "financial consultants" like Ernst & Young who knew nothing about patient care. The consultants saw that the hospitals largest expense was the nursing staff so they recommended the most cuts there. "You dont need 3 RNs to do this work. Get rid of 2 & add a less expensive UAP to the mix". And thats just what the hospitals did. All in the name of saving a buck. Of course they didnt save the buck by donating back a portion of their ridiculously huge salaries & perks. They kept those & got rid of nurses instead.

    Lay-offs of nursing staff was happening all over the place. In every state. Vacant positions were eliminated or frozen. There was a freeze on hiring. Staff was cut to bare bones. New grads couldnt get hospital jobs. Experienced nurses were let go and found use for their skills (along with better compensation & more respect) in other fields. The hospitals didnt pay any attention to nurses warning that care was declining because they copuldnt do it all - until the facts of incidents spoke for themselves - but that took years.

    Now theyre finding that they cut too much & when they want those nurses that they pushed out back again, the nurses dont want to come back. And the word was out that the job was unstable so students stayed away from the profession.

    In the past couple of years, they came up with mandatory ot as a way to solve the problem of missing staff. Oh yes that helped a ton. It just pushed out more nurses, kept other nurses away, and reinforced to students that nursing is not the place to be. Why go thru all that schooling to be abused by your employer and not even paid well for the privilege?

    The best way to fix the problem would be to significantly improve working conditions, salaries, benefits, and attitude toward nurses & then advertise that loud & clear. Why employers still refuse to do that when they need nurses so badly is illogical. When they are going to stop seeing everything in immediate dollar signs is beyond me. But they are not going to solve their shortage, no matter how many new students they fund, until they correct the working conditions and compensation. Once all those new students they lure in see what theyre in for, they'll be jumping ship too. And the cycle continues.
  5. by   lever5
    In the past they said, "Lets cut nurses so we can save money."

    Now, "Lets tell them we need nurses, we know there aren't any, and we will still save money and look good."

    Until there are mandatory staffing ratios, they will save money.
  6. by   numerouno
    I feel badly but i know i am part of the problem. I don't think Nursing is the best profession anymore. I have been in it since 87 and it has gone through many changes. None of them good. I tell people to look into something else. The abuse on the body is not worth the money. I know people who install alarms that make more money. I know it's not about the money....but it sometimes should be. I am deciding now over 35 what to do next. Any Ideas?
  7. by   -jt
    <An article found in the recent archives of the Cheyenne paper. Comment made by the WNA states 18% of nurses are busy doing something other than nursing.>

    The comment is based on a Congressional Research Report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) in DC last May. The AHA went to Congress crying that "there just are no nurses to be found" & hospitals must be given more money from the Govt to pay for recruiting new students.

    Nurses feared that they were being used as an excuse for the hospitals to get back the higher reimbursement from the govt that it had lost with managed care & also feared that any money given by the govt would be used by the hospitals for things other than nursing and that the govt would be paying for nursing improvements that we'd never see. Sooooooo....

    Before doling out the dollars, Congress said to the AHA "lets just first see if its true that there are no nurses". So it commissioned a report from the GAO which found that there certainly ARE nurses available - almost 500,000 them nation-wide to be exact - all licensed but not working in nursing.

    Considering that there are only 125,000 vacant nursing positions nation-wide but 500,000 licensed nurses not working, the report concluded that there is no real nursing shortage at the moment. There are enough licensed nurses to fill every available nurse position in the country even if just a fraction of them came back to work.

    The report found that the number of available licensed nurses in this country who are not working in nursing at the moment is a full, mind-boggling 18% of the entire U.S. nursing workforce. So the report's question to the AHA is WHY?

    The report concluded that there ARE more than enough nurses, that we do not have a shortage in numbers - we have what it called a "maldistribution" - meaning that the nurses ARE out there - just refusing to work in hospital jobs.

    The report proved the AHA wrong in its claim that "there just are no nurses to be found" and it recommended that the employers go back to the drawing board & figure out WHY the nurses wont work for them & what the employers can do to change that.... and then do it.

    Basically "fix it & they will come"

    That report, released to Congress last May was the best thing that could have happened because it proved that what nurses have been saying all along is true. Its not a real shortage - its an employer- manufactured shortage. We are out there - we just will not put up with anymore abuse.

    After that came out, Congress paid more attention to us & got on the ball. National legislation like the Safe Staffing Patient Care Act (which includes banning mandatory ot & establishing safe staffing levels) and the Nurse Retention-Quality Care Act (which includes other workplace improvements) started happening. You can read the report at:

    107th Congress
    'Maldistribution' of Nurses is More Likely Than Actual Shortage, Report Says
    Last edit by -jt on Feb 28, '02
  8. by   wrightgd
    Thanks for posting the article. I find it very interesting to read some of the proposed thoughts for "luring" more young people into our profession... The scholarships, loan forgiveness, and special mortgage rates are especially appealing.

    I don't do patient care nursing anymore, but I still work as a RN in industry. My work conditions are not the same brutal conditions that most pt. care nurses face. I have done that in the past, and I doubt I will go back unless there is a significant change in the workload and the compensation. Some of these perks might make me consider a return to pt. care, even if only prn.

    I just wonder if we will actually see something more that the "sign-on bonus wars" that have sprouted up in the last several years... Oh the thought of doing the job we all dreamed we could do when we were in nursing school, with a managable pt. load, time to eat a meal, 40 hour weeks, and a decent paycheck at the end of the week...

    It may never happen, but we can dream...

  9. by   joyrochelle
    I had heard something rather disturbing before our semester break from a another woman in the nursing program (whoa run-on sentence!). She stated that her clinical instructor was so savvy, so sharp that she was traveling around in our "metropolitan" area and getting hired in as contingent just to get the sign on bonuses, knowing that she would only have to work 2 days out of the month and acruing up to 2000 in her pocket from each hospital. that mad me soo mad. I mean, I haven't even graduated yet, so I guess with her experience, along with every other nurse, the poor treatment justifies some sort of compensation. But if the hospitals are already so d@mn stingy with their cash, why abuse the system like that and leave that hospital and their staff in a no-win situation?

    on another note....i want to be an advocate for better staffing and treatment of nurses. How can I get more involved? Unfortunately at my school, the members of SNA served more as a deterant to join than an encouragement--> very clique-y. It was ridiculous. Plus I am graduating in about 2 mths.. YEHAW!!!!
    any suggestions???
  10. by   SICU Queen
    I think wanting to be an advocate is an admirable thing, but you're going to get extremely frustrated very quickly. If you want to do it though, decide where you'd like to work and become active on one of the many committees that all hospitals seem to have nowadays. It may be helpful to have an actual nurse on one of those "committees"...

    Good luck, and congratulations on your upcoming graduation. I hope you can keep your enthusiasm...

    Kim (had a rough one at work last night..)
  11. by   joyrochelle
    enthusiasm.....yes. I hope i maintain it as well. but ihave already made the decision to continue with schooling to become a WHNP at some as least i have that. well i am interviewing for grad jobs i will definitely get on a say the least.!!! Thanks for your post!

    remember...YOU RAWK!
  12. by   Yvonne123
    Being a student I can tell you that I started out with 75 fellow students last year and after the first semester we dropped down to 45! This is a major contributing factor to the shortage in my opinion. The professors weed out the "weak" in the beginning and do not cater to the non-traditional student. Classes are all scheduled in the day time and the workload is overwhelming. It is impossible for you to have a life in nursing programs. Then after all is said and done, no one is sure if we should be considered a true profession! Other majors do not have nearly as much of a workload and commitment to their jobs(only opinion) as nurses do. It is just frustrating to know that there are so many factors that make this job undesirable to young people. I wish I had suggestions to try to nip the problem in the bud but unfortunately I do not. The only thing I do know is that money is not the answer. Respect is the first thing that needs to be had for our profession(yes I consider us a profession) and the public also needs to realize that we make a difference. Other than that I do not know what can be done or even where to begin to make a difference. Yvonne
  13. by   -jt
    <i want to be an advocate for better staffing and treatment of nurses. How can I get more involved?.......
    Unfortunately at my school, the members of SNA served more as a deterant to join than an encouragement--> very clique-y.>>

    First, if youre in Michigan, call the Michigan Nurses Association right now and register to attend "Nurse Impact", taking place on April 23rd (use the student discount).

    "NURSE IMPACT" is a major grass roots nurse activist event conducted by the Michigan Nurses Assoc. You cant get any more involved than that in advocating for nurses! Its very exciting to be part of something like Nurse Impact.

    You dont have to be a member to attend. This major nurse activism/nurse advocate/poltical action event will help you decide how to get more involved. Your eyes will be opened like you can not believe!

    Check out the details at the website. While youre deciding what to do to get more involved, Id strongly suggest attending & participating in "Nurse Impact". You will learn a lot, experience a lot, and get a lot accomplished. And also find out if this kind of thing is for you. There will be an open forum for students at one point during the day, so bring your friends.
    This may be just what youre looking for.

    Dont let the quirks of a few at school deter you from joining your state nurses association. (Michigan Nurses Association has lots of great pro-active nurses! I spent almost a week with them & nurses from 20 other states at a nurse activism conference in Las Vegas last Sept - had a great time at the Let It Ride Tables with a couple of Michigan State Association nurses too!).

    If you really want to get involved in nurse activism, the state association is where you need to be. If you want to be involved in advocating for safe staffing & working conditions, not joining your state association would be like cutting your nose to spite your face. That is the organization that is leading the fight there & has the attention of the powers-that-be in your state (elected officials, media, other organizations). The state associations have the numbers, resources, and contacts to make a difference & could use all the help they can get.

    As a member, you can fight for nurses by participating on a specific committees, including the political action committee, vote on issues that direct the organization, as well as be a liason to the media and legislators to get our issues to the forefront. There is much more besides attending great nurse activist events like Nurse Impact and lobby days.

    Taking an active part in the state associations, especially in the governmental affairs activities is where you can really get involved in activism for nurses. Michigan State Nurses assoc is also the largest RN union there, so they are doing a lot of staff nurse activism - tons of opportunitities for you to be involved.

    Being involved in the political activity advocating for nurses can be exhilarating, encouraging, and effective in making changes happen state-wide (including the safe staffing legislations that was passed in 7 states, is currently in the works in another 12 states and the ban mandatory ot legislation that is in the works in 16 states - how do you think they got there???). ; )

    Nurses in State Associations WRITE most of the bills in their state legislature that address nursing isssues - including staffing & banning mandatory ot. Nurses in the New York State Nurses association WROTE the Nurse Retention-Quality Care Act that has recently been submitted to Congress by Sen. Hillary Clinton & the Senator from Oregon for passage into national law. And believe me we all have some "cliques" too. Thats just human nature everywhere.

    If you let those few who are clique-y in your student nurses assoc(as some people are, no matter where you go) deter you from getting involved in your state assoc, they just go on being a clique & you miss out on all the opportunitites of becoming involved in the way that you want to be involved. The only one who loses out is you - and the nurses you could have helped with your involvement.

    Forget about the clique-y few that you met at school & get your own information so you can make an informed decision. Visit the website of your state association. Browse thru their governmental/political affairs, collective bargaining (union services), and news press releases pages to see what theyve been doing in your state.

    Contact your state association & tell them you want to be part of their next Lobby Day at the state capitol or other local political event. You do not have to be a member to participate. Attend an event (too bad you missed their state-wide convention) & see the organization as a whole - how it works & what it is doing - before you make a decision not to become part of it. You'll have a better idea if its what you are looking for to meet your needs if you actually see it at work. Dont judge based on those few sweeties at your school.

    Also, you can contact the National Student Nurses Association. They are a good organization for nursing students as far as academic issues and assitance but you can also ask if they have a political action/nurse activism agenda. I dont know. Their national convention is in April in Philadelphia. Karen says that when she attended it in 1982, it opened her eyes to a wide array of nursing opportunities and advocacy

    You can also contact the ANA to participate in nurse activism with the RN Lobby Day in Washington DC and/or attend the ANA national convention in Philadelphia this June. (students receive discounts)

    You do not have to be a member to attend any of these events. Convention details have previously been posted at this thread and several of us will be attending:

    Some of the programs that will be available there are:

    -Turning the Public into Nursing's Advocate
    -Your Workplace Rights
    -A Conversation with Nursing's Leaders
    -Staff Nurses Speak Out: Their Needs for Ethics Resources and Education to be Effective Patient Care Advocates
    -Medication Errors: a Measure of the Nursing Shortage
    -Disposable Nurses - Don't Allow Yourself to Become a Dying Breed
    -The Aging RN Workforce: Retaining Our Most Experienced Nurses
    -Legality, Ethics and Compassion in 21st Century Nursing Care
    -Yes or No? Assignment Despite Objection
    -Dollars and Sense: Financial Planning for Nurses
    -Nurse Staffing: The California Experience

    you can get a glimpse of the full 30-program schedule at:

    About RN Lobby Days, (similar to Michigans "Nurse Impact" next month), this may be something youd be interested in too. Individual state nurses assoc conduct them regularly at their state capitols with the state legislators and once a year we have a national one in DC with Congress. We use these events to focus attention on issues like safe staffing levels and nurses working conditions & educate the law-makers on why we need them to vote for these laws. Several us from this BB participated in the one we did in DC last year. Posts describing the experience, the issues we discussed with our own federal legislators one-on-one, what we learned, how we educated them, their responses, and the exhilarating time we all had can be found at:

    (scroll down the page past the posts about meeting for dinner!)

    Was this all too much information?? ; )

    I just love pro-active students! You guys let us old bags know theres hope for the future.

    Good Luck. Have fun. (and thanks)
    Last edit by -jt on Mar 1, '02
  14. by   joyrochelle
    wow! thanks for all the information! I will use it definitely! ---joy