Contra Costa Times Examines Hospital Efforts To Recruit Registered Nurses
The Contra Costa Times yesterday reported on the "near-desperate" tactics that many California hospitals, which face an "acute" nursing shortage and impending mandated nurse-to-patient staffing levels, have used to recruit registered nurses. In January, Gov. Gray Davis (D) issued recommendations for nurse-staffing ratios, which will undergo a year of public hearings before an expected July 2003 implementation (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 8/5). Initially, the recommended ratio would require one nurse for every six patients on general medical floors, a level that would be narrowed to one nurse per five patients 18 months after the implementation date. The rules also set a one to one ratio for trauma center nurses, a one to four ratio for pediatric nurses and a one to two ratio for obstetric nurses (California Healthline, 1/23). According to Davis' office, many of the state's hospitals currently "fall far short of meeting the mandate," and overall need an additional 5,000 nurses, the Times reports. Some hospitals have nursing vacancy rates of 15% to 20%. Although the recommended ratios suggest that hospitals could hire licensed vocational nurses, who "require less training and are less in demand than registered nurses," hospitals are seeking more registered nurses because state law calls for doctors or RNs to oversee LVNs' work, the Times reports. As a result, facilities are routinely offering signing bonuses of up to $5,000, education loan-repayment programs and "guaranteed work schedules" to registered nurses. Genil Jones, a recruitment manager for Alta Bates Summit Medical Centers, said, "Basically, the hospitals aren't ready" for the ratios, adding, "Everyone is scrambling" (Contra Costa Times, 8/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.