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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 7:40 pm | Fair 59º

2018 Salute to Nurses: A Noozhawk Partnership with Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care

Ongoing Nursing Shortage Creating Pressures, Inefficiences in Health-Care System

Even with more jobs and opportunities available, nursing education programs struggle to keep up

From left, Registered Nurses Junde Irabon, Alexis Marshall Wilson, Eva Dulnik and Tiffany Rangel navigate the halls of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Click to view larger
From left, Registered Nurses Junde Irabon, Alexis Marshall Wilson, Eva Dulnik and Tiffany Rangel navigate the halls of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. (Glenn Dubock / Cottage Health photo)

With more jobs available, schools and hospitals are trying to find ways to recruit aspiring nurses. It is expected there will be 1.05 million new job openings for nurses by 2022 according to a recent study by Adventist University of Health Sciences.

During the last few years, the public has associated nursing with the complexities of the changing health-care system, the influx of people with new health insurance coverage and the shortage of nurses.

“Since the Affordable Care Act took place in 2014, across the country there has been a huge upswing in the 42 million people who had access to care,” Herb Geary, Cottage Health’s vice president of patient care services, told Noozhawk.

“With that increase in volume across the country, there was a corresponding increase in the demand for nursing, which created an immediate national nursing shortage.”

Individuals throughout the country have experienced this shortage firsthand, with long wait times and difficulty scheduling timely appointments. From the nurse’s perspective, there are not enough nurses for the workload and more nurses are retiring.

That demand also is having an impact on nursing programs, with a shortage of qualified instructors forcing schools to wait-list nursing students, thus widening the gap between the number of nurses who are qualified to take over for retiring nurses.

“You can’t have everybody on one nursing unit with less than a year’s experience,” Geary explained.

With 30 to 60 new patients coming through the doors of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital every day, the pressure to provide for patient needs continues to grow.

“It’s been getting stronger and stronger every year,” Geary said, “and as such, the demand for temp-nurses, or travelers, has gone up across the country, and the demand has far exceeded the resources of nurses.”

Sharon Callis, hospice clinical manager at Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care, knows these pressures.

“Every job I’ve ever had, no matter where, has been one where there is too much work to do,” she said. “Any nursing literature I read, or any experienced nurse I speak with, any statistical study I run across, all point to the same upward trend of growth in the senior population, and a decrease in available nurses to fill the need.”

Callis said many prospective nursing students tell her of long waiting lists for admission to nursing programs.

“My own wait was greater than two years,” she said.

Wait lists not only discourage students, but affect hospitals’ abilities to provide quality care to patients because of an imbalance in the nurse-to-patient ratio.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, Cottage Health and other health-care providers in the area are working with school nursing programs to make this transition from student to practicing nurse more fluid.

“We support Santa Barbara City College’s two-year nursing program and we support California State University Channel Islands at Cottage Health at Goleta,” Geary said. “Both of these schools have simulation labs that we have funded that have simulation mannequins that they practice on.

“They also have a nonlive environment to chart in their simulation labs.”

This practical experience gives new nurses an edge to be successful once they enter the hospital environment.

“It’s up to hospitals to train new nurses,” Geary said, “and that training can take anywhere from 12 to 20 weeks before they can be independent.”

With continued technological developments and expanding responsibilities for nurses, these on-site training requirements are serving their purpose by ensuring new nurses are up to date on the latest health trends and challenges patients face in our community.

Noozhawk contributing writer Kellie Kreiss can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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