Hospitals are realizing the full impact of the nursing shortages on the overworked units and clinics. Many hospitals are on diverting status, not because of a lack of hospital beds, but because of a lack of nursing care. More than one out of every seven hospitals is reporting vacancies in their nursing staff, resulting in approximately a 20-percent reduction in workforce. Some hospitals are resorting to hiring non-Registered Nursing staff to fill the vacancies, such as Certified Nursing Assistants, Medical Assistants, and other technical support such as Patient Care Techs. The move towards filling vacant RN positions with non-nursing position has resulted in concerns surrounding patient safety, appropriate delegation, and standards of care.
Nursing programs are very expensive to administer. Our educational system has taken numerous budget cuts across the country. Programs are being forced to reduce faculty, which means a reduction in student enrollment, eliminate programs, or halt existing requests for new nursing programs. With no end in sight, the nursing shortage continues to plaque our communities and hospitals are finally starting to think outside the box and many have come up with a solution that is a win-win approach: Hospitals are teaming up with local Community Colleges to offer classroom and lab space, offer financial help in terms of scholarship funds, clinical opportunities, perceptive programs, and the funds to help hire faculty. Finally a response to the nursing shortage that seems to be working!
This cooperative alliance between the hospitals and the community colleges has provided opportunities that would otherwise not exist. Those opportunities range from providing much needed clinical and lab space to providing clinical leadership. This strategic move has piqued the interest of community leaders who are oftentimes looking for programs to financially support.
Other ways to help with the nursing shortage would be to place many of the non-clinical courses online, reducing the need for classroom space, allowing more access to students in rural communities, and increasing enrollment overall.
We have always looked at the nursing shortage as a win-lose proposition. It has to be the college’s responsibility to increase enrollment and shorten programs to get the students out and prepared to take on the challenges of a registered nurse. However, colleges have blamed hospitals for not providing enough clinical opportunities so that they can increase enrollment and get their students through the clinical experience in a quicker fashion. Instead of looking to blame, hospitals and community colleges across the country are partnering together, to work on this very critical issue of finding a way to reduce the nursing shortage.