A pay increase for nurses at Lawrence Memorial Hospital appears to be having the desired effect.
Since the hospital's board of trustees announced in November what roughly amounts to a 20 percent pay increase for registered nurses, a consistent shortage of hospital-employed nurses has been cut considerably.
Steve Ensinger, assistant executive director for nursing at LMH, said since the pay increase was announced, the hospital has hired 15 full-time nurses and has not had to go outside the hospital to hire agency personnel.
During 1990, LMH paid out about $1 million for agency personnel, mostly nurses. Ensinger said the hospital was consistently short about 20 nurses during the year.
He said because nurses at LMH regularly work more hours than assigned, they have not had to use agency nurses to fill any gaps so far in 1991.
THE NURSES who have been hired for full-time positions at LMH include some who previously worked with agencies, some who previously worked only on a part-time basis, and some who live in Douglas County but worked outside the immediate area, Ensinger said.
Nurses at LMH received a 10 percent pay increase effective Dec. 23, 1990. The hospital also increased the 10 percent pay differential for nurses who work evenings and nights to 20 percent for evenings and 30 percent for nights, effective Sunday.
Ensinger said the hospital very much prefers to have nurses on staff at the hospital rather than hire nurses from outside. He said nurses who work at the hospital consistently become much more knowledgeable about the machines and other technology used, and doctors and patients prefer working with the same people regularly.
ENSIGNER ALSO said that the hospital has had problems with the job performance of some nurses hired from outside of the hospital.
"There are some very good agency nurses out there," he said. "But there are some bad ones, too. We do have a list of people we would not hire back."
But Ensinger said the nursing shortage is far from over, and the hospital will continue searching for high-quality nurses. He said unlike businesses such as automobile plants, the effect of new technology on nursing increases the need for additional personnel.
At LMH, Ensinger said, "We're making significant progress that we feel real good about, but we're by no means near the end of the road."