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Tri-State area hospitals always looking for nurses

April 20, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

TRI-STATE - Some hospitals in the Tri-State area are feeling the sting of a national nursing shortage.

With 680 nurses, Washington County Hospital's vacancy rate is about 7 percent, said Mary Towe, vice president and chief nursing officer at Washington County Hospital. To help offset the shortage, hospital officials plan to hire 30 nurses this spring - many from local colleges and universities.

Michael Groves, vice president of patient care services at City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., said the vacancy rate for registered nurses at the hospital is about 6 percent, or about half the national average.

Groves said City Hospital has about 260 nurses, but could use another 15.

"We'll recruit from anywhere," he said.

Groves - along with others in the health-care profession - said the problem can be traced to a scarcity of nursing instructors.

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He said many nurses work overtime to cover shifts, but laws prohibit nurses from working more than 16 hours in a day.

Lou Gregorio, vice president of human resources at Summit Health, the parent company of Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals in Pennsylvania, said Chambersburg Hospital has about 375 nurses and Waynesboro has about 40. Although those numbers put the nursing staff at close to full strength, Gregorio echoed Groves' comments, saying the hospitals continually recruit to find nurses.

"There's not a specific number we're trying to recruit," Gregorio said. "We hire anticipated on need."

Towe said nursing shortages are cyclical and tend to occur when the economy takes a downturn. She said something needs to be done quickly to curb the problem before an increasing number of baby boomers require hospital treatment.

"It's approaching a crisis proportion," she said. "It could become a health crisis."

Towe said steps are being taken to improve the situation.

For instance, the hospital and Hagerstown Community College are collaborating, with the help of a grant, to increase the number of nursing instructors.

That program is designed to encourage nurses to obtain their master's degrees so they can work as instructors at HCC. More instructors, in turn, would enable HCC to increase the size of its nursing program.

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