Nursing Shortage Concerns Tulsa Schools and Hospitals

Article excerpt

There's no economic downturn in nursing, where the industry is pleading for more faculty members at colleges and more practitioners in hospitals.

Geraldine Ellison, professor of nursing at OU-Tulsa, said the need for more faculty directly relates to the overall shortage of nurses in Tulsa and nationwide.

"We're facing the worst nursing shortage I've ever seen because of the complexity of the causes," she said. "We've been able to attract more young people into nursing and ease that problem, but now we're at such a faculty shortage we can't do that. We have to address the faculty shortage first."

Only 68 percent of qualified applicants were admitted into bachelor degree nursing programs, and 43 percent in associate degree programs, according to the latest from the Department of Commerce Oklahoma health care industry report in 2006.

Ellison said as evident by the high number of nurses turned away, the problem is not a lack of interest, but a lack of capacity. Last year, one nursing program at OU-Tulsa had 104 applicants for 32 slots.

Every nursing program can vary, but Ellison said that generally, each 10 students admitted requires an additional teacher.

"This makes nursing a relatively expensive program to offer," she said. "If nursing was something like art history you could conveniently have 150 students in class, but we are taking students where there are issues of life and death."

Since the industry has attracted potential nurses, the focus is filling up the faculty vacancy. Lynn Sund, chief nurse executive of Saint Francis Health System, said low pay keeps nurses from becoming educators.

"The funding has not been redirected toward schools of nursing to adequately attract people in those types of positions," she said. "If the compensation matches the job you are asking people to do, they will be interested."

The Oklahoma Board of Nursing requires those teaching associate and bachelor's degree programs to have a master's in nursing or be actively pursuing one. …