Nursing Crisis ‘All Time Low’ in US Hospitals

Recent report from Reuters, discloses the nursing crisis at US hospitals hit West Virginia’s Charleston Area Medical Center at its worst. The non-profit healthcare system is one of the state’s largest employers.

To keep the operation up and running, Charleston Medical is spending $12 million on visiting or ‘travel’ nurses. Apart from this, they also offer incentives such as tuition reimbursement for nursing students who commit to work at the hospital for two years.

Not only in West Virginia, hospitals nationwide are torn between filling nursing jobs or shutting down beds or even departments. They are spending billions of dollars collectively to recruit and train nurses.

Apart from higher salaries, retention and signing bonuses, they also offer perks such as student loan repayment, free housing and career mentoring. A huge pool of recruits comes from foreign or temporary nurses to fill the gaps.
According to Staffing Industry Analyst, the cost for travel nurses alone nearly doubled over three years. Hospitals nationwide spend up to $4.8 billion in 2017.

However, hospitals serving in rural communities are already strained under heavy debt such as Charleston Area Medical Center. They must offer more money and benefits to compete with facilities in larger metropolitan areas.

J.W Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown is spending more in 2017 ($10.4 million) compared to their previous $3.6 million to hire and retain nurses. The flagship hospital for WVU Medicine offers higher pay for certain shifts, tuition reimbursement,$10,000 signing bonuses and free housing for staff who lives at least 60 miles away.

“We’ll do whatever we need to do,” said Doug Mitchell, vice president and chief nursing officer of WVU Medicine-WVU Hospitals.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates more than a million registered nurse opening by 2024. One of the reasons for the shortage is the aging of the baby boomers generation, with a greater number of patients seeking care along with a new wave of retirement among professional nurses.

“We’ve had to try whatever it takes to get nurses here,” said Rita Brumfield, head of nursing at Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital. “It’s a struggle every day to get qualified staff.”

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