Nationwide nursing shortage strains U.S. hospitals

U.S. hospitals are shelling out unprecedented sums of money to attract and retain nursing staff and fill an unusually steep shortfall of nurses. Prospective nurses receive offers of not only higher salaries, but additional perks like free housing and student loan repayment as hiring incentives.
By Kyle Bates | Oct 21, 2017
Free housing, student loan repayment, career mentoringhospitals throughout the United States are starting to offer these and other perks to prospective nurses as they compete for applicants amid a higher-than-average nationwide scarcity of nursing staff. More than 20 hospitals, including some of the largest chains in the country, told Reuters that they will be forced to close down whole departments and scale back patient care if they cannot fill some vacancies.

The hospitals are also substantially raising new nurses' salaries and offering bonuses, the hospitals said. Some reported taking other measures such as hiring more temporary nurses and nurses from overseas.

"I've been a nurse 40 years, and the shortage is the worst I've ever seen it," said Ron Moore, who retired in October from his position as vice president and chief nursing officer for the Charleston Area Medical Center in Charleston, West Virginia.

The center offers tuition reimbursement for nursing students who commit to working at the hospital for two years. It is also spending $12 million a year to hire visiting or "travel nurses" who put in temporary stints of service. Moore said that the hospital spent only half this amount on travel nurses three years ago and did not need to spend any on them 10 years ago.
Staffing Industry Analysts, a global workforce-issues advisor firm, reported that the nationwide cost of travel nurses doubled in the last three years to $4.8 billion this year. It found that rural hospitals such as the Charleston center struggle the hardest since they are forced to compete on limited budgets with better-funded hospitals in urban areas.

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