Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, in general, is now experiencing a shortage of nurses, according to a new report. Let’s look at the trends that make this a logical conclusion, as well as address ways it could be stemmed. We’ll also address the competing views on how to solve this problem.
The Hard Data
The Oregon Center for Nursing contacts hospitals and health networks, nursing homes and nursing agencies to determine their demand for talent versus the number of positions filled. This gives them an understanding of vacancy rates and how many jobs employers want to fill that are not being filled. Oregon Center for Nursing Director, Jana Bitton, says that vacancy and turnover rates have increased since 2004. She states that if trends continue, the number of nurses will be well below what the state needs in 2025. They get the estimates for future trends based on the Nursing Health Workforce Model. Predictions show that Oregon will need six thousand more nurses than it will have trained if trends continue.
Competition with California
Competition with California is aggravating Oregon’s shortage. California’s regulations limiting nurse to patient ratios resulted in higher pay for nurses overall in that state, and pay is even higher in the San Francisco Bay area. This means many nurses who might otherwise work in Oregon move to California instead. This is why Washington State, too, is also projected to have a shortfall of around seven thousand nurses in a nation expected to have a modest nursing surplus in 2025.
Supply Side Constraints
The limited supply of nurses is going to be hard to meet because there is also a shortage of nursing faculties. This means that even if the schools had a flood of applicants, they cannot accept and train them all.
Another issue is pay. A staff nurse can earn a third more working full-time in a hospital than in some full-time nursing faculty positions, and that isn’t including overtime. Some university heads have said that raising salaries isn’t the solution since this will increase tuition costs and discourage nursing students from entering the profession. Instead, there need to be ways for part-time staff to remain clinically active so that they can both teach and work at the same time. Another option is finding more ways for advanced nurses to earn an income in areas like telenursing and medical writing for sites like sideeffectanswers.com in addition to teaching.
Oregon is looking at a nursing shortage in the next few years due to an aging population that needs more medical help and more nurses retiring soon, while the constraints on who can become a nurse limit how many can be trained in Oregon to fill the role. In addition, higher demand and better wages in neighboring states like California are pulling talent from the region, while the expectation that one needs a master’s degree to be a teacher discourages many from entering nursing education since they can earn more elsewhere.