BACKGROUND:

The healthcare industry is at a crossroads regarding meeting its staffing needs. Staffing shortages are currently impacting Pharmacy, Radiology, Respiratory Care and Nursing; with Nursing being the major issue in almost every healthcare setting.

"Nearly every person's health care experience involves the contribution of a registered nurse. Birth and death, and all the various forms of care in between, are attended by the knowledge, support and comforting of nurses. Few professions offer such a special opportunity for meaningful work as nursing. Yet, this country is facing a growing shortage of registered nurses. When there are too few nurses, patient safety is threatened and health care quality is diminished. Indeed, access even to the most critical care may be barred. And, the ability of the health system to respond to a mass casualty event is severely compromised."1

It is important to understand the metrics of the Nursing shortage problem, the following is an overview as defined by several referenced sources:

There are 126,000 nursing positions currently unfilled in hospitals across the country.2 Fifty-six percent of hospitals report they are using agency or traveling nurses - at great expense - to fill vacancies.3 On average, nurses work an extra eight-and-a-half weeks of overtime per year.4 It is estimated that by 2020, there will be at least 400,000 fewer nurses available to provide care than will be needed.5 Ninety percent of long term care organizations lack sufficient nurse staffing to provide even the most basic of care.6 There are roughly 21,000 fewer nursing students today than in 1995.7 One study found that in 1999, five percent of female college freshman and less than .05 percent of men identified nursing as being among their top career choices.8 Nursing schools turned away 5,000 qualified baccalaureate program applicants in 2001 because of faculty shortages.9 In Georgia alone, a quarter of the state's nursing school faculty will retire or resign over the next four years.10 The average age of a working registered nurse, 43.3-years-old, is increasing at a rate of more than twice that of all other workforces in this country11. Organizations that are better able to retain their nurses fare better on quality measures. Low turnover hospitals - at rates under 12 percent - had low risk-adjusted mortality scores as well as the low severity-adjusted lengths-of-stay compared to hospitals with turnover rates that exceeded 22 percent.12 Staffing levels have been factor in 24 percent of the 1,609 sentinel events reported to the Joint Commission over the past five years.13

Moreover, the current solutions (i.e. Temporary Agency/Contract/PRN fills of shortages) present a near nightmare to the Education Services and the Healthcare Safety Professional when it comes to designing and effective orientation and training process. This session will share innovative methods to assure effective orientation and training for "Agency/Contract/PRN" staff in order to optimize use of time for training staff.

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