Nursing Shortage on Horizon

February 7, 2006--Posted at 4:45 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR--It's a major focus of health care organizations around the world. A growing shortage of nurses.

"The prediction for the United States is to have a million shortages by 2020," said Brenda Million Chief Nursing Officer for St. Bernards Hospital.

Although shortages are envisioned for Northeast Arkansas, hospitals like St. Bernards believe the shortage will be smaller based on location.

"We are fortunate because we have 10 schools that feed nurses into the health care system," said Million.

With the average age of nurses at 46 years old. It's a shortage that will only get worse with time.

"Actually the demand is going to grow even more with the baby boomers," said Million.

By the year 2010 Arkansas anticipates having a shortage of over 3100 nurses in the state. To combat this a number of hospitals are taking a proactive approach to finding the nurses of tomorrow.

"We currently have our annual giving campaign through our foundation, all the money raised from that will be going to scholarships," said Million.

"It helps the financial burden of being in school and it enhanced my career in that I was able to continue on in school because of that scholarship," said Registered Nurse Lisa Sangster of St. Bernards.

Scholarships that provide additional training to current nurses to help enhance the workforce.

"It helped me achieve my life long dream," said Sangster.

Programs where the hospital aides in putting a student through school in return for service to the hospital when they graduate.

"People are drawn to how can you help me, so we scratch your back you scratch ours," said Sangster.

It's creating a win-win situation to help ease what could be a major problem. The nursing outlook isn't as grim now as it was back in 2000. However another problem the healthcare industry is experiencing is a lack of teachers for new nursing students.