Nurse Shortage

"Shortage of Nurses Found A Peril to Health of Nation; Record Number Now on Duty, but Need Is Growing as Health Services Expand -- Industry, Military Vie for Recruits Nurse Shortage Found So Critical It Is Menacing the Nation's Health" That was the headline on a March 3, 1952 story in The New York Times. "More nurses are working today than ever before in the nation's history, yet a critical shortage of nursing service exists in almost every city and rural area," the article began. The problem pe

"Shortage of Nurses Found A Peril to Health of Nation; Record Number Now on Duty, but Need Is Growing as Health Services Expand -- Industry, Military Vie for Recruits Nurse Shortage Found So Critical It Is Menacing the Nation's Health" That was the headline on a March 3, 1952 story in The New York Times. "More nurses are working today than ever before in the nation's history, yet a critical shortage of nursing service exists in almost every city and rural area," the article began. The problem persisted.

On January 19, 1953, the newspaper of record revisited the issue. "The results of a three-year study of the nursing profession, published yesterday by the Russell Sage Foundation, indicate a critical shortage of nurses has developed and that much of the blame for the shortage rests on colleges and universities for failing to provide adequate nursing education," an article began.

More than a decade later, on August 1, 1966, the Times ran another story on nursing under this headline: "25 to 60% of Nurses' Jobs In Hospitals Here Vacant; Shortage in Both Private and Municipal Institutions in City Is Called Critical --Major Recruiting Drive Started Registered Nurse Shortage Found Critical in 21 City Hospitals."

On December 13, 1988, the Times once again highlighted the problem. It reported that "a federal commission today urged government intervention to ease a ''pervasive'' shortage of registered nurses that has led to the temporary closing of hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units and to the canceling of elective surgery."

Just last month, the Brattleboro Reformer ran a two-part series on the nursing shortage with a special focus on Vermont. "While the effects of a shortage of nurses are slightly less in Vermont compared with the rest of the country, the problem is still a real one, and local hospitals are looking for ways to stave it off. According to a 2007 study on hospital nursing by the Office of Nursing Workforce Research, Planning and Development at the University of Vermont, vacancy rates in the state vary depending on the position, with 12 percent of jobs for nurse anesthetists unfilled, 8 percent of both clinical nurse specialist and licensed practical nurse positions, and 6 percent of registered nurse spots," according to the article by Nicole Orne.

A 2007 study by the University of Vermont, she wrote, found that half of the hospitals in Vermont said they sometimes had delayed or diverted admissions at least several times each year, and 21 percent required staff to work overtime at least monthly.

Part of the problem is that American colleges enroll too few nursing students. Nursing schools rejected 41,683 qualified applicants in 2005 due to understaffing and scarce resources.

Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a solution. He introduced legislation that would create a program to train 10,000 new nurses a year, a major step forward in meeting the projected demand for more than 1 million new nurses by 2016 to help care for the aging baby boomer generation.

Sanders will hold a press conference on Friday in Burlington to discuss the problem and his legislation to address it.

To read the Reformer articles, click here and here.