A need for nurses in West Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the first time in almost a decade, the number of licensed nurses in Michigan dropped in 2014 — falling by 3.5 percent, according to a survey recently released by the Michigan Center for Nursing.

>>Online: The full results of the survey

“We really do get concerned with a nursing shortage. Right now at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, what we do best that is retaining nurses. The biggest thing we can do is hire the best nurses in the very beginning. We have to balance that with novice or new nurses with expert or experience nurses,” said Dr. Kristy Todd, the director of professional practice and development at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. Her doctorate is in nursing.

Many health professionals say one of the biggest reasons for the nursing shortage is age. According to the Michigan Center for Nursing, 39% of active registered nurses in Michigan are 55 and older.

Many of those would have retired sooner, but chose to keep working when the 2008 recession hit.

“Now with the economy kind of turning around, we do have experienced nurses leaving the hospital and then also nurses who are ready to retire,” Todd said.

But the economy isn’t the only thing that has changed over the years. Many hospitals have changed the amount of education they require of nurses.

“Years ago, we had multiple avenues to enter nursing through diploma programs or associate degree programs. Now it’s the expectation that nurses, we are really asking for higher level, here at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, we really just want to hire bachelor prepared nurses,” Todd said.

On the education front it, the amount of education and the difficulty of simply getting into a program are both challenges.

“It’s hard to get in nursing schools now. There is anywhere from a three- to a four-year wait to even get in nursing programs,” Todd said.

Cynthia McCurren, the dean at Grand Valley State University’s Kirkhof College Of Nursing, said the school continues to see large number of applicants — it just can’t take them all.

“We still have a robust number of students who declare nursing as a major for the traditional program that enter as freshmen and then that come forward for the competitive process to enter into the upper division nursing,” she said. “We have a good number more who are eligible candidates that we are unable to accept into upper division nursing.”

She said that is largely due to two problems:

“The two biggest barriers for being able to admit more students into our upper division nursing are clinical placements, including that those would be quality places to have a nursing experience so they get a good nursing experience so that they get a good realistic experience; and adequate number of faculty that are prepared at the master or doctorate level.”

While the state of Michigan and the country may be experiencing a shortage of nurses now, according to the American Association of College of Nursing, Michigan should see a surplus of nurses by 2025.

>>PDF: The Future of the Nursing Workforce: National- and State-Level Projections, 2012-2025

In the meantime, officials at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s say the level of care patients receive will not be affected by the need for nurses.

“I guarantee you here at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, our nurses are very prepared and provide the best care. Every day, we practice using the most up-to-date evidence-based practice nursing,” Todd said.

Shawn M. Ulreich, chief nursing executive and vice president of clinical operations at Spectrum Health, released this statement on the nursing situation Thursday evening:

“Spectrum Health currently is not experiencing difficulty recruiting staff nurses, due in large part to the high level of nursing talent available through our partnerships with universities and schools of nursing throughout the region. Spectrum Health is committed to mentoring nursing students. We provide clinical sites for several nursing schools and facilitate individual internships for students from other colleges and universities. Hundreds of nursing students complete supervised clinical practicums at Spectrum Health facilities annually.”

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