Nevada Nursing Shortage Not Improving - 8 News NOW

Alyson McCarty, Reporter

Nevada Nursing Shortage Not Improving

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Leaders within the nursing industry fear the state's economic crisis is only going to make it even harder to attract and retain quality nurses.

"Someone is going to go without," said Vicki Huber, UMC's chief nursing officer.

Nurses are the ones who roll up their sleeves to see you through some of the most terrible times of your life. Few would argue that good nurses are the backbone of the health care system and with fewer than 600 nurses for every 100,000 residents, Nevada continues to rank dead last in the nation.

"Without quality nursing, patient care and health care outcomes are dramatically impacted," said Vice Chancellor Jim Lenhart, Nevada Health Sciences System

Nevada's nursing leaders are in Las Vegas this week to seek solutions to the state's critical nursing shortage.

"To attract more quality people into the profession," Lenhart said. With 11 nursing programs throughout Nevada, about 700 new nurses graduate every year. But only 400 of them remain in state to practice.

"And if they're leaving the state, then that's doing none of us any good," Huber said. As UMC's chief nursing officer, she emphasizes this crisis isn't just about the numbers. Huber says more must be done to attract, educate and retain not only more nurses -- but better nurses -- which has been a challenge in Nevada during even the best of economic times.

"The reality is that everything has been cut from health care reimbursements to funding for academic nursing programs, so we'll have to be very creative in how we craft this model that will carry us into the future," Huber said.

Before adjourning, these nursing professionals plan to draft four strategic initiatives to take nursing education in Nevada to the next level.

"I think it's a wonderful time to consider nursing as a profession." Huber says it's safe to assume nursing is a recession-proof profession but it's not suited for everyone.

"You have to be someone who wants to be with people who are going through some of the most terrible times in their life and you have to want to help them get through those times then you can make a difference in the lives of other people," said Margaret Puccinelli, fourth-generation nurse.

Nurses often have three and four-day work weeks with 10-12 hour shifts. They can make $60,000 to $70,000 a year with full benefits and even signing bonuses in many cases. 

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