Byline: Marcia Mattson, Times-Union staff writer
Construction of two new hospitals could worsen an already serious nursing shortage in the Jacksonville region.
But officials from Jacksonville hospitals are banding together with the area's nursing schools to recruit more students and ease the shortage before the new hospitals open.
Some hospitals also plan to begin recruiting and importing nurses from the Philippines.
Registered nurses are growing scarcer. If the trend isn't reversed, the United States will need an estimated 1.1 million more RNs in 2020 than it will have, according to the Florida Hospital Association.
Because of the shortage, patients are facing overcrowded conditions and longer waits for surgeries and other procedures, according to the American Hospital Association.
In Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, the general population is growing in both age and number -- at the same time that nurses are aging and leaving the profession. And too few people are going to nursing school to replace them.
Florida will need 30 percent more nurses in 2006 than in 1996. This year, 16 percent of RN positions in Florida hospitals are vacant, according to a hospital association survey.
And in Georgia, the situation could reach "catastrophic" proportions, according to a recent report presented to board members of the state Department of Community Health. Patient safety and quality of care are suffering, the report said. In 1999, the last year Georgia hospitals were surveyed, 13 percent of the state's nursing jobs were vacant.
"Everything I have seen and read suggests it's becoming increasingly critical," said Pam Chally, dean of the College of Health at the University of …