Courtesy Lone Star College-CyFair
While the U.S. economy is lagging, the health care industry continues to be a high demand area for employment. Although job openings are available, various factors have created a nursing shortage problem.
The Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies reported that the statewide average hospital vacancy rate for registered nurses was 6.2 percent in 2010, down from 9.2 percent in 2008.
National researchers attribute the decrease in the vacancy rate to the economy. During a recession, nurse participation in the labor market decreases, according to the TCNWS. The situation, however, is temporary due to the advancing age of registered nurses who are working in Texas as well as those who are full-time faculty members. The TCNWS estimates that Texas could lose more than 40 percent of its working nurses in the next 10 years.
Although there is a nursing shortage in Texas, North Cypress Medical Center has recently had an influx of new hires, mostly due to offering a variety of specialty services, said Julie Hoff, director of the intensive care unit at the hospital.
“Within the past year, we have seen an increased number of new graduates who can’t find internship opportunities,” Hoff said. “Most of the medical center hospitals won’t hire associate-prepared nurses for their new grad programs. At North Cypress Medical Center we have developed the means to hire and train new RN graduates to achieve a level of competence to mold into the positions we need filled.”
The nursing shortage may eventually affect the hospital in terms of experience, not numbers, Hoff said.
“Our seasoned nurses are naturally also our more experienced nurses, so without them guiding and teaching the newer nurses, we would lose those skills,” she said. “Thankfully, we already have such training programs in place.”
Lone Star College-CyFair is trying to help meet the nursing demand, said Cynthia Griffith, the school’s dean of health and behavioral sciences.
“As funding and resources permit, our colleges are seeking to increase training capacity in high demand programs such as nursing via accelerated learning, the use of simulation technologies and weekend programming,” Griffith said.
Advanced courses and programs have been created at the college to enhance career mobility and provide professional development opportunities.
It continually works to recruit students into the health science programs.
The college accepts about 100 students per year for its registered nurse program, often turning away many that apply. Like other schools throughout the country, two of the major barriers slowing enrollment continue to be the lack of qualified nursing faculty and clinical site placement, Griffith said.
About 400 to 500 students graduate from the nursing program across the five-school college system every year.
Prairie View A&M University Northwest Houston Center is also training nurses in the area thanks to its partnership with other parts of the school like the college of nursing. There are 24 students enrolled in the nursing program at the Northwest Houston Center.
The university is helping to remedy the nursing shortage problem by offering a modified fast-track program for licensed vocational nurses to receive their bachelor’s degree in nursing, said Dr. Michael McFrazier, dean of the Northwest Houston Center.
“The university is in the planning phase of a doctoral program that will help to educate more professional nurses to earn doctoral degrees and prepare them for leadership roles in nursing education and in practice,” McFrazier said. “PVAMU is also looking to expanding the program in the northwest area of Houston.”