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Doug Mann LPN, LNC

Nursing shortage or staffing crisis?

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Nursing Shortage or Staffing Crisis?

Congressional research agrees with ONA; concludes its a "staffing crisis" and there is no true nursing shortage [from Ohio Nurses Association web site]

Healthcare facility associations in opposition to legislation calling for safe staffing and prohibitions against mandatory overtime have been decrying a nursing shortage as the reason why such drastic measures as mandatory overtime are a necessary "tool".(See end-note) In reality, the nurses have been there all along, and what is truly a "necessity" is an acute examination of, and accountability for, patient care conditions.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), at the request of the 107th Congress, recently released a report echoing what ONA has been stating all along: that a maldistribution of labor, rather than an actual shortage, is pinpointed as the likely culprit behind the nation's nurse staffing crisis. For many months now, after having extensively studied the nursing bedside shortage crisis, ONA has concluded and claimed that numerically there is no shortage of nurses in Ohio, rather, there is a mass defection of nurses from bedside nursing into other areas of healthcare, or leaving nursing altogether. The true culprit - unacceptable work environment conditions.

The report, which was released to Congress May 18, noted that available labor market indicators do not indicate "conclusively" that there is "an across-the-board shortage of RNs at the present time." The document further blames "poor personnel decisions" for any spot shortages of nurses that have occurred, rather than a simple lack of available nurse recruits. However, again echoing the sentiments of ONA, the report also warns that facilities could face a shortage of nurses by 2010 if "ameliorative actions" are not undertaken.

Highlighting Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) data, the report notes that graduations from nursing education programs will increase between 1998 and 2020 by 13%, compared to 10% between 1976 and 1998. But the report also cautions that while the percentage of nursing education graduations will continue to "increase steadily," by 2020, "assuming no preemptive steps have been taken, the demand for RNs could exceed supply by 20%."

ONA and ANA have long supported many of the remedies the report suggests, including increasing wages, improving working conditions and lowering education costs.

ONA is working with health care leaders in the Ohio House and Senate on House Bill 78, the Safe Nursing Patient Care bill, to address the use of mandatory overtime, along with other workforce and staffing issues.

END-NOTE: A representative and staff member of the Ohio Hospital Association recently stated during a television interview on Nurses Day, "We don't believe that we can legislate ourselves out of the nursing shortage. There's no way that we can pass a law and overnight create enough nurses. We need to have a very long-term approach and we're working on that. We think this is the wrong time to do something that would take away a tool that our hospitals need to meet the patient care needs by saying, okay, we've just taken mandatory overtime off the table."

Ohio Nurses Association
4000 E. Main Street
Columbus, O 43213-2983
Phone: 614-237-5414
Fax: 614-237-6074