A Publication of WTVP

Nationally, there’s now a shortage of 125,000 nurses, according to the Bureau of Health Professions of the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, which conducts the quadrennial National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses (R.N.s) to develop supply and demand projections for registered nurses.

When the survey was last conducted in 2000, the State of Illinois supposedly had about 1,300 more nurses than the projected demand of 86,000. You certainly couldn’t prove that by the increased flurry of recruiting activity and additional incentives to bolster the number of R.N.s at numerous hospitals throughout Illinois—including here in Peoria.

By 2005, there’s projected to be a shortage of nearly 700 nurses in Illinois, which is expected to grow to more than 4,200 in 2010. Nationally, it’s projected the shortage will be about 275,000. As a point of reference, there are projected to be 2,069,369 nurses working in health care-related positions in 2010, the overwhelming majority of whom are women. That would be an increase of 180,000 new nurses in the first decade of this new century, and yet that still will fall far short of the expected need.

There are many factors that have contributed to this current national shortage. Nursing remains primarily a female occupation, but during the past two decades, so many opportunities developed for young women to consider upon college graduation. An excellent example is enrollment at medical schools, which is evenly split between men and women; 20 years ago, the percentage of women training to become physicians was much less. There’s also been a tremendous increase in non-patient care positions for nurses such as in health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and health care vendors. The most significant factor that will prolong the nursing shortage is aging of baby boomers, who will dramatically increase the demand for health care during the next 20 years.

Stemming the tide, though, are the creative ways colleges of nursing, state nursing associations, and hospitals are attracting more young women and men into the nursing profession. According to the fall 2002 survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, enrollment in entry-level baccalaureate programs in nursing increased by 8 percent nationwide since fall 2001. In its most recent annual report, the AACN noted “enrollments were up … for the first time in six years.”

The Oregon Nursing Association organized a recruitment campaign geared at young men with the theme, “Are you man enough?”, which boosted the number of men in the nursing profession in Oregon to about 11 percent, compared to the national average of about 5 percent. If this increase was duplicated throughout the country, there would be no nursing shortage.

We at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center have embarked on many endeavors that have enabled us to hire 170 nurses since October 2002, as well as retain our current nursing force. While the turnover rate of nurses nationally is 21 percent, according to the National Association for Healthcare Recruitment, ours is less than 11 percent. We’ve been very successful in recruiting nurses to come to work for the Sisters from different states and even different countries.

But the most significant source for many of our new nurses continues to be the graduates of the Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing. Attracting nearly all of the 75 graduates each year provides us with a tremendous boost in the number of nurses we need. In addition, enrollment is up nearly 30 percent for next year, and interest continues to rise in the nursing profession. It’s the one profession that marries high tech and high touch, where you can make a difference every day.

So, the next time you hear references about the nursing shortage, be assured here at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center—and throughout OSF Healthcare System—we’ve been very successful in retaining and recruiting the nurses we need to carry out our mission of “nursing the sick with the greatest care and love.” IBI