Haims: What happens to your health care when there’s no nurse? (column) | VailDaily.com

Haims: What happens to your health care when there’s no nurse? (column)

Judson Haims
Special to the Daily

The United States is in a nursing profession shortage, and it is impacting the delivery of care.

Studies show that there is a direct correlation between patient mortality and nursing shortages. A recent study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that patient safety incidents were 10 percent to 30 percent better when patient-to-nurse ratios were optimal. However, when the patient to nurse ratio is not optimal, odds of patient mortality can increase by much as 40 percent.

Another study published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies found that when a nurse's workload increases by one patient, there is a 7 percent increase in the odds of a patient dying within 30 days of hospital admission. The study also found that when nurses have the advanced training that comes with a bachelor's degree, the likelihood of patients dying after surgical procedures lowers considerably.

While there has been a shortage in the nursing profession for some time, predictions are it may soon get quite worse. Some of the contributing factors include population growth, lack of nursing educational institutions and an inability to replace the retiring workforce quickly enough.

Projections from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that within the next 15 years, the amount of older people in the United States will outnumber the amount of children for the first time in history. With fewer nurses available to provide care to a general population, the unprecedented increase in an aging population that often has multiple symptomology is going to cause added burden on an already taxed workforce.

On Wednesday, July 18, Gov. John Hickenlooper's administration and the Commission on Higher Education met to discuss the state's growing shortage of nurses. One of the concerns they addressed was the ever-increasing cost of higher education. Because the tuition cost for a four-year nursing bachelor's degree is so expensive, many people interested in becoming a nurse only complete a two-year associate degree in nursing, often at a community college.

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Unfortunately, many hospitals need nursing staff with higher levels of education. Many hospitals only want to hire nurses with associate degrees who will commit to getting bachelor's degrees, as this assists quantitatively in decreasing the odds of patient mortality.

Unfortunately, at a cost two to three times an associate degree, many aspiring nurses cannot afford the cost of a bachelor's degree from four-year universities and colleges.

Further exacerbating the nursing shortage is the fact that four-year universities and colleges are not accepting as many applicants as the market is demanding. Lack of nursing faculty is a major contributing factor to their inability to accept added students.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, "nursing schools turned away 64,067 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2016 due to an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors and budget constraints."

To address these concerns, House Bill 1086 has been proposed. House Bill 1086 would allow nursing students to receive their bachelor's degrees at two-year community colleges at substantially less cost and may also assist in attracting additional nursing faculty.

Medical providers are also being proactive in not only attracting new nurses, but also providing incentives for advanced education. Here in Colorado, UC Health offers signing bonuses and relocation allowances between $5,000 and $10,000. Currently, UC Health has about 250 openings for registered nurses and might need up to an additional 150 nursing positions for two new hospitals.

Locally, Colorado Mountain College is providing a number of courses in nursing at the Edwards, Glenwood Springs and Summit County campuses. Hopefully House Bill 1086 will help expand the nursing programs and attract students who may choose to remain in our mountain communities.

Vail Health is also being proactive in attracting nursing staff and is currently offering signing bonuses and child care reimbursement. For people in search of a career path that is rewarding, provides stable earnings and offers travel opportunities, nursing may be a perfect opportunity.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at 970-328-5526 or visit http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns.