Nurses Still in Demand

The news in recent weeks has been jolting to many in a profession that
most considered recession-proof. Licensed professional nurses have been
laid off in significant numbers at area hospitals and clinics.

“Students do question, ‘Will there be a job for me when I graduate?’”
said Cheryl Pratt, regional dean of nursing for Rasmussen College.

The answer, said Pratt and other nurse educators, is that the recession
is hitting all sectors, including health care, but the long-term demand
for nurses is huge.

“Hospitals are businesses, too,” Pratt said. “People put off elective
procedures and that hits the hospitals in the short run and they don’t
need as many nurses.”

Paula Swiggum, associate professor of nursing at Gustavus Adolphus
College, said the long-term demand for nurses — particularly registered
nurses — isn’t going to change.

“Even now, there are places in the country that have a chronic shortage
of nurses. A lot of our seniors have been applying in the south and
west and easily getting jobs,” Swiggum said. “Minnesota has had some
shortages, but it’s not as bad as other parts of the country.”

One thing both women said, however, is that LPNs are taking a bigger
hit now and may have more limited employment options in the future.

Immanuel St. Joseph’s Mayo Health and other hospitals have been laying
off LPNs rather than RNs. That reflects a trend that’s been going on in
recent years at hospitals across the country.

“There are studies that support having all RNs at hospitals,” Pratt
said. “There are less hospital-acquired infections with all RN staffing
and patients receive more education related to their condition.”

Swiggum, too, said research supports using RNs in hospital settings
where patients are usually sicker than in clinics or other facilities.
“Patients have shorter hospital stays and better outcomes when cared
for by RNs,” she said.

“LPNs are certainly an important part of the healthcare system, but we
think that a baccalaureate degree is the minimum for nursing in a
hospital,” Swiggum said.

Both women said LPNs are and will be in demand in long-term care
settings, including assisted-living and nursing homes, as well as at
clinics. As the population ages, more long-term care facilities will be
built.

Beyond the overall shortage of nurses, there is a growing problem with a shortage of nurse educators.

“Most nurse educators are in their 50s and 60s and there aren’t people
in line to replace them. That’s going to be a problem,” Swiggum said.

An RN can often make more money in a hospital than teaching. But
Swiggum said when you take into account that teaching is a nine-month
job and doesn’t include weekends or nights, there are advantages to
teaching.

“I tell my students to consider becoming educators,” Swiggum said. (Mankato Free Press)

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