Lawrence Memorial Hospital is beginning to feel the preliminary effects of the nation's nursing shortage.
"The shortage is already being experienced on the coasts, and it generally takes about five years for things to start navigating towards the center of the United States," says Bonnie Peterson, senior vice president at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
She says the sh-ortage is reflected in a variety of ways. Enrollment is down in undergraduate nursing school programs. Hospitals are having trouble filling their nursing positions.
There are also many other options for men and women.
Peterson explains, "It used to be that teaching and nursing were two very big options. Now, bright, young people have lots of options, and that is really making it more difficult, I think, for some of the health care fields."
Ramona Hamilton, a registered nurse at LMH, says she is not surprised the nation is experiencing a nursing shortage. "Nursing is a very hard job a lot of responsibility very stressful, physically and mentally stressful," she says.
Hamilton works three 12-hour shifts every week. Her work includes passing medications, getting vital signs, juggling between dismissing patients and admitting patients, looking at physicians orders and dealing with a patient that's in crisis.
On top of all that, there's paperwork and lots of it.
Hamilton normally works with seven or eight patients a day. She says that is a relatively normal patient to nurse ratio.
Studies in the Journal of American Medical Assn. (JAMA) reveal by the year 2020, the available number of nurses is expected to drop 20 percent.
Peterson says many hospitals are staffed 70 to 80 percent with agency nurses. Not only that, Peterson says some hospitals are even closing beds.
These statistics have LMH preparing for the future.
"We know that we'll probably be spending more dollars in recruitment," Peterson says.
She says the hospital also plan to build and maintain good relationships with nursing schools.
Peterson is aware of the importance of recruiting young nurses to fill the shoes of those who are ready to retire.
JAMA reports that the average nurse's age in 1983 was 37. In 1998, it was 42.
"We know that there is a concern that the nurses that we have that are experienced, long-term nurses are going to be retiring - those are the baby boomers - so we want to be sure we've got a younger set of nurses coming in to replace them," Peterson says.