Texas Hospitals Struggle to Staff Nurses

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According to the Texas Nurses Association, there is currently a shortage of 17,000 nurses in Texas, the worst number the organization has seen in decades.

“If nothing is done about it, over the next 14 to 15 years, that shortage will increase to just over 66,000 registered nurses in Texas,” Andrew Cates with the Texas Nurses Association said, “which is almost quadruple.”

Cates said hospital staffs are not able to keep up with the increasing demand of nurses, a demand that is only expected to get worse. A recent study by the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce estimates that demand for registered nurses in the Lone Star State will rise 86 percent by 2020.

“I can tell you, there isn’t a nurse executive I believe in this country who is not paying attention to this,” Yvonne VanDyke, Chief Nursing Officer at Seton Healthcare Family said.

Seton is a member of Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic and nonprofit health care system. VanDyke also said the shortage, which is happening nationwide but felt heavily in Texas, is only expected to get worse.

“There are some hospitals experiencing a significant shortage to the extent that they are actually closing beds, sometimes temporarily or sometimes long-term,” VanDyke said, “based on their ability to staff.”

VanDyke said the shortage has a lot to do with people living longer, and choosing to retire earlier in their career.

“On top of that, in some states like Texas,” VanDyke said, “population increases all the time, people move here because it’s a great place to live.”

In order to keep up with staffing demands, many hospitals in Texas are choosing to pay their nurses overtime, and asking them to work extra.

“It can be felt when you go to a clinic and there are increased wait times, when there are shortages of providers, access to care, especially in rural areas,” Cates said. “It’s felt pretty across the board in the state of Texas, and I think the average consumer can and will feel the impact if nothing is done.”

The Texas Nurses Association said it’s not all bad news for those entering the profession. Because of the shortage, state statistics show that you are twice as likely to land a job after graduation if you are a nurse, than any other profession.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a registered nurse in Texas is roughly $68,000. The national average in May 2015 was $71,000.

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