NURSING SHORTAGE: California Hospitals Court Workers
Hospitals in San Diego County are scrambling to fill nursing positions as a continued statewide nursing shortage has prompted some to offer signing bonuses and pay relocation costs. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that as nationwide enrollment in nursing schools plummets, hospitals are "anticipating a need for more nurses as baby boomers age" and notes that the "shortfall appears headed for record levels." Peter Buerhaus, director of the Harvard Nursing Research Institute, said others blame the shortage on managed care, which restricts patient admissions and slashes hospital stays. "We think it's the first ripple of the aging crisis," explained Buerhaus, "Our estimates show that the nursing work force will begin to drop just as the first wave of baby boomers line up for their Medicare cards." The Union- Tribune reports that the resulting "hurried atmosphere is a bitter pill for veteran nurses" and fuels the discontent that drives many out of the field.
Part-Time Solution, Full-Time Headache
The Union-Tribune reports that "curiously," nursing registries are filling up with nurses eager to work per diem assignments, according to the state Board of Registered Nursing. "There's been a tripling of those who say they work part time because they can't find a full-time job they want," the paper reports. In addition, hospitals are hiring "travelers" to work on a temporary basis at one hospital before transferring to another facility. But full time nurses complain of job stress and note the strain of directing part-time colleagues unfamiliar with a hospital's procedures and supplies. Some systems attempt to fill the void by increasingly demanding their nurses to work overtime, "occasionally brandishing the threat that refusal to work overtime will jeopardize the nurse's license," explained Ruth Ann Terry, executive officer of the California Board of Registered Nursing. Cost-driven HMOs hope that the "lesser- trained and lower-paid staff could fill the gap" left as the ranks of registered full time nurses are trimmed. But Buerhaus predicts that as hospitals revise policies to buoy their bottom line and also maintain quality care, "[t]hey will have to make careful investments in nursing -- raise wages and listen to what nurses are saying" (Rose, 1/19). Click here for recent CHL coverage of California's nursing shortage.