Although nursing is usually a very secure field to be in with nursing jobs being in high demand, with today’s economy, even nursing is feeling the crunch. Nurses are being laid off in numbers not seen in recent years. Hospitals and private offices are cutting their staffing to the bare bones. Malpractice insurance rates and overhead costs have forced many doctors to relocate their practices to other states or close their practices for good. Many hospitals have been forced to implement mandatory overtime practices in order to meet their staffing guidelines when the patient census rises and hospitals are caught without the necessary workforce.
Hospitals are raising the nurse to patient ratios in order to avoid hiring new staff and forcing nurses to care for more patients, with less supplies, than before. The biggest concern in doing so, is the quality of nursing care and patient safety and satisfaction scores. The percentage that hospitals are reimbursed by Medicaid is based, in part, on patient outcomes and satisfaction scores. Hospital-acquired infections, such as C-diff, and pressure ulcers are no longer reimbursed care expenses. Lower numbers of staff raise the risk of such infections and hospitals are caught in a catch-22 of capital expenses. Job layoffs and benefits cuts by employers mean many of the “safety net” hospitals (those where care is guaranteed regardless of ability to pay) are eating more healthcare costs. Many patients, due to job loss, are also delaying treatment and are coming into the emergency departments sicker, and with more complex issues, putting an added strain on an already strained healthcare system.
The good news is that many nurses who have not been in the nursing field for the past few years are also returning to the profession in order to help out with the family finances. Many are also returning to school through on-line courses in order acquire their RN license, complete an advanced degree or brush up their skills.
In the profession typically immune to the ups and downs of the economic turns, nursing is experiencing a few glitches of its own. People, however, will always need nurses and we are glad that they do.