Heartland Nurses Search for Greener Pastures

Four days a week registered nurse Wendy Jauch doesn't have to work. Instead she just enjoys working out. It's a big change from working 5 days a week like she used to. "I wasn't happy. I was working all the time, on call on the time and now it's so much better it's like a vacation every week," she says.

She's still a registered nurse working in a hospital, but this time not in the Heartland, where she lives. She travels 2 hours one way to St. Louis where they have an even  worse nursing shortage. But she says the trek up there is well worth it. "I doubled my salary,"  she says.

She not only doubled her salary, she's only working 30 hours a week. That's 10-15 fewer hours ss a week than when she worked here in the Heartland. "You'd think they'd get a clue down here and start to pay more and get better hours," says Jauch.

Opportunities like hers make the nursing shortage even tougher on Heartland hospitals. "Nurses leave for better opportunities," says Cindy Raganyi a registered nurse at Southeast Missouri Hospital. But some nurses argue traveling so much for work can lead to one of the biggest problems threatening the nursing profession, burnout. "That's burnout and is bad for nurses. It's bad for the area too," says Debbie Hine a registered nurse at St. Francis Medical Center.

This nursing shortage has definitely paved the way for a new kind of nursing environment. There are now needs that can't be ignored for much longer says Louise Hart, Vice President of the American Nurses Association. "If they don't address salaries, and schedules and benefits like daycare and other issues, nurses will travel to St. Louis and other areas," says Louis Hart.

But one thing is for sure. The need for nurses isn't leaving the in the Heartland, even if some of the nurses are.