How hospitals are tackling the nursing shortage

To deal with the nationwide nursing shortage, many already-cash-strapped hospitals are spending more on visiting nurses and retention incentives, such as student loan repayment programs and no-cost housing, Jilian Mincer writes for Reuters.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2024 there will be more than one million job openings for registered nurses. While nursing shortages have occurred in the past, Mincer writes that the aging baby boomer generation presents a particular challenge: Providers are seeing an influx of older patients at the same time as a wave of trained nurses from the baby-boom generation are seeking to retire.

According to Mincer, the nursing shortages have disproportionately affected rural hospitals. Ron Moore, who retired in October from his position as Charleston Area Medical Center's vice president and chief nursing officer, said, "I've been a nurse 40 years, and the shortage is the worst I've ever seen it."

Mitigating strategies

To cope with the nursing shortages while maintaining quality, many hospitals are dedicating more spending to hiring visiting or "traveling" nurses, Mincer reports.

For instance, Charleston Medical is spending $12 million this year on traveling nurses, which according to Mincer is double what it spent three years ago.

According to Staffing Industry Analysts, the overall cost for travel nurses nationwide has risen to $4.8 billion in 2017, almost double what it was three years ago.

In addition, hospitals are offering higher salaries as well as retention and signing bonuses to attract more nurses to their facilities. Mincer writes that many hospitals also offer additional benefits, such as career mentoring, no-cost housing, and student loan repayment.

For instance, J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital is spending $10.4 million this year to hire and retain nurses, up from $3.6 million last year.

Doug Mitchell, VP and CNO of WVU Medicine-WVU Hospitals, of which J.W. Ruby is the flagship hospital, said, "We'll do whatever we need to do" to fill the openings (Mincer, Reuters, 10/20).

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