Shortage of Nurses Means High Costs for Rural Hospitals

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A recent article published by Reuters.com detailed the effect the United States’ nurse shortage is having on financially-strained communities, especially in the former rust belt communities and coal towns.For these communities, the lack of local nurses forces them to rely on recruiting “travel” nurses, or nurses who come to live and work in the town on a temporary basis.  While this approach can help to cover the immediate shortages, it comes at a significant cost.  Charleston Medical in West Virginia, for example, spent $12 million USD during 2017 on travel nurses.  In order to attract and retain qualified nurses, the center must offer especially desirable conditions and perks.  At Charleston Medical, these include tuition reimbursement.  Perks offered by other hospitals include repayment of student loans, subsidized or free housing, and career mentoring.  Nationwide, these extra incentives add up to billions spent every year in order to recruit and retain nurses, totaling $4.8 billion USD in 2017.  The alternatives – shutting down certain departments or compromising patients’ safety – are not possibilities.

Hospitals in major urban centers suffer less of a strain.  In addition to being located in attractive locations for living, many hospitals in large metropolitan areas benefit from associations with universities or other sources of funding.  Hospital partnerships are also more common in densely populated areas. Rural hospitals, on the other hand, bear the brunt of the nursing shortage and must compete with these bigger, better funded, and more attractive institutions just to stay afloat.

 

Based on the Reuters.com article “Short on Staff: Nursing Crisis Strains US Hospitals” published Oct. 2017.