STATEWIDE While many employees throughout Oregon are losing their jobs or worried about keeping employed, nurses are proving to be immune to the sick economy.
Statewide vacancy rates for nurse positions in hospitals and long-term care facilities are growing despite an ongoing, titanic effort by nursing schools to mint as many new nurses as possible, says Kristine Campbell, executive director of the Oregon Center for Nursing. Schools are operating at full throttle and have punched out nearly 80% more graduates than they did in 2001, she says. That’s created a concern that the hyper-competitiveness of nursing-school admission may backfire, discouraging people from going into the field.
The effort is still falling short though, experts say. Nearly 16,000 new nurses will be needed in Oregon over the next 15 years, yet schools are turning away six applicants for every available spot in their programs. Although jobs remain plentiful for nurses statewide, the exception is finding an entry-level position in the Portland-metro area, Campbell says.
For years, health-care organizations and industry experts have sounded the alarm about a nurse shortage in the state. Last year the state Legislature created a committee to help promote the profession and direct funds to nursing schools struggling to keep up with demand.
Oregon Health & Science University in Portland has nursing positions available and is having a hard time filling them because they require specialized nurses with experience, says Mary Mochnal, director of nursing retention and recruitment at the hospital.
Brandon Byars, manager of recruitment and retention at Kaiser Northwest, says the health-care provider also needs experienced nurses. “People are always going to get sick,” says Byars, “and they are always going to need nurses.”
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