Nursing 911

For 25 years Debbie Hine has been caring for the sick as a registered nurse. But never has she seen a time when it's been so hard to find others to do the same. "Nurses are hard to find. These young people don't want to go into it," says Hine.

It's a concern nurses all across the Heartland share. "We're always looking for more people," says Bunny Smith who has been a nurse for 42 years. "I see not as many out there and it's harder to find nurses," says Cindy Webb a surgical nurse at Southeast Missouri Hospital.

There have been shortages before but Karen Hendrickson, the chief nursing officer at Southeast Hospital says, never one quite like this. "This nursing shortage is different. In the past if you offer more money or benefits you can find another nurse. Today they are not out there to find," says Hendrickson. Jeannie Fadler, the vice-president of patient services at St. Francis Medical Center agrees, " there are many parts of the community that need nurses and we're all competing for the same nurses."

The nursing shortage is most critical here in hospital specialty areas, like surgery and intensive care units. It's hardest to find and keep nurses who are willing to work some of those night and weekend shifts. "A lot of people don't want this type of setting, they want Monday through Friday jobs," says Webb.

Almost every single hospital in the Heartland is looking diligently for more nurses. The latest, and first of its kind report found in the Health Affairs journal shows the problem is likely to get worse, soon. They are reporting 1 out of every 3 nurses under 30 are expected to leave their jobs within the next year.

There's no question we'll all need a nurse at our bedside in time of serious sickness. But now the changing nursing environment does leaves to question who will be there and for how much longer?