Critical Care Plus

New Staffing Report Claims Nursing Shortages Worse

PA group offers solutions

The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) recently issued a report that predicts the state’s current registered nursing shortage will worsen before it improves. The report collates information about the current nursing workforce with figures for nursing school enrollments and graduates, health care financing, and patient demographics.

Carolyn F. Scanlan, HAP president and CEO, says the findings illustrate the problems faced by health care providers and consumers alike. "All of the demographic trends are going in the wrong direction, and these trends now appear to be long-term rather than cyclical," Scanlan says.

The report found that the adverse effects of the shortage of nurses are exacerbated by the "shaky financial condition of Pennsylvania’s hospitals and a broader range of job opportunities for all workers." Current trends project a nationwide shortage of more than 400,000 nurses by the year 2020. To deal with nursing shortages in Pennsylvania, HAP recommends:

Adequate funding for health care, meaning government and private payers must fairly reimburse hospitals so they can offer competitive salaries to health care workers and invest in technology and systems that will improve patient and worker safety;

"Cost of caring" payment adjustments from Medicaid, Medicare, and private payers that provide money to staff at adequate levels;

Increased financial support for nursing and allied health education from government and private payers to prevent further nursing school closures;

Financial incentives for students through loan forgiveness and scholarship programs;

Comprehensive collection and analysis of health care work force data by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry;

Continued improvements in the delivery of patient care;

Flexibility in facility and professional licensure requirements so nurses can effectively provide and coordinate patient care and to practice to their fullest potential;

Examining facility and professional licensure requirements for their effect on improvement and patient safety;

Nursing career outreach through education programs that promote nursing and health care careers performed in collaboration with health care delivery;

Partnership between health care delivery systems and nursing education programs that strengthen continuing education and professional development in the current nursing workforce;

An Adobe "PDF" version of "Pennsylvania Nurses: Meeting the Demand for Nursing Care in the 21st Century" is available for download by clicking on "workforce" at www.haponline.org/hhap (Accessed June 11, 2001). 

Julie Crawshaw is a freelance writer in Salude, NC.