But some states move forward to lessen the burden
It is not exactly a stop-the-presses kind of news story because it’s not exactly new.
But it continues to be a serious enough issue to warrant frequent coverage: the nurse shortage continues, threatening safe and effective delivery of health services to a steadily aging population.
And what makes things worse than they need to be is the continuing lack of classroom space and faculty to graduate more nurses. The demand for nurse training far outstrips the supply of college-level facilities to accommodate it.
In Michigan, for example, 53 nursing schools had to turn away about 50% of their prospective nursing students because they did not have the budget and faculty. If there’s anything that goes smack against the logic of market supply-and-demand theory, it’s the continuing crisis in nurse education.
The applications to Michigan’s nursing schools went up to 16,000 since 2004, according to a recent press report. But the state seems to have capacity to admit only 8,000 of them. This is all happening while the observers expect a shortage of 18,000 nurses in Michigan by 2015.
A United Press International story has quoted Jeanette Klemczak, the state’s first chief nurse executive, as follows: “If you’re short 18,000, that’s an absolute crisis. If we don’t have those nurses, we’re going be in a dire situation. We’ll find ourselves with closed operating rooms and less hospital beds available to patients. It will slow down the whole delivery of the health care process.”
In Pennsylvania the situation is no different. The gap is expected to widen to 4,100 licensed practical nurses and 16,100 registered nurses by 2010, according to the official figures of the Governor’s Office.
***** Counter-measures taken
Some states are already busy developing programs to remedy the situation, at least partially.
In Wyoming, for example, the state’s Health Resources and Services Administration awarded an $850,000 grant for a three-year period to the University of Wyoming’s Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing to expand its online registered nurse/bachelor of science in nursing degree program.
The program is expected to accelerate the awarding of bachelor’s degrees and to address the specific health issues that Wyoming faces like high incidents of Alzheimer’s, occupational fatalities, and high mortality rates for teenagers and young children.
Pennsylvania has also stepped up to the plate by budgeting an additional $2.5 million for nurse education.
“Pennsylvania, like many other states, is facing a long-standing health care workforce crisis that must be addressed,” Gov. Ed Rendell is quoted saying. “That is why we are investing an additional $2.5 million into our nurse education initiatives through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency to expand our ability to educate new nurses as a way to ensure that residents have access to quality health care now and in the future.”
***** The silver lining
One bright note in all this is the excellent job prospects that still await almost all nurse graduates. This is obviously still a field in which unemployment is not a daily issue in contrast to, let’s say, steel workers or newspaper reporters.
For example, all 100% of the graduates of Allegany College of Maryland’s nursing program found jobs, according to Fran Liebfried, the director of the school’s nursing education. The demand remains very high both in private sector and in the armed services.
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