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Cape Fear Valley, Methodist, FSU on the nursing shortage in Fayetteville

The country is facing pressure on the healthcare system as the demand for nurses increases due to an aging population and the gap caused by a nursing shortage widens.

Professor Jennifer Johnson Edwards, associate professor of the School of Nursing at Fayetteville State University, said last week that urban areas like Fayetteville are being hit harder by the nursing shortage experienced across the country due to larger populations, but that the exact consequences are still not clear. evolves.

“The nurse shortage is caused by several issues that are common across the country,” Edwards said via email. “These include an increasingly aging population that will require more specialized care, a lack of nursing faculty, the inability of nursing schools to accommodate a greater number of qualified nursing students, nurse retirements, nursing turnover and nurse burnout. ”

NC Nursecast predicts that North Carolina will face an estimated shortage of 12,459 registered nurses by 2033, representing 11% of the projected RN workforce. The US Census Bureau reported that by 2034, the population aged 65 and over will reach 77 million, surpassing the 76.5 million people under 18 for the first time. This growing elderly population will result in a greater demand for geriatric care. However, NC Nursecast data shows that Cumberland County itself may be less affected than other areas in the state.

What’s behind the shortage in Fayetteville?

Edwards said a factor unique to Fayetteville is its proximity to Fort Liberty, which could result in increased nursing staff turnover due to the transient nature of military families.

“When there is an issue like a nurse shortage, patient outcomes are directly affected,” Edwards said. “Simply put, if there are not enough nurses to care for patients, the care they receive is compromised in some way. Not to mention that the nurses are overworked and overloaded, leading to more potential burnouts.”

She said burnout is considered the number one factor for nurses leaving the profession.

Shannon Matthews, director of the Methodist University Nursing Program, said nurses are leaving the workforce due to retirement or job dissatisfaction as demand for workers increases due to an aging population.

To combat the shortage, universities are becoming more intentional about training potential nurses through various hands-on education programs across the province.

“We have developed an academic-clinical partnership with Cape Fear Valley Health to create dedicated clinical education units and new educational pathways for nurses,” said Matthews.

What’s happening in Cape Fear Valley?

Cape Fear Valley Health, like many other health care systems, is facing a nursing shortage, said Chaka Jordan, vice president of marketing and communications.

“The supply of nurses is simply not meeting demand, a situation that has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” Jordan said Wednesday. “Many nurses left the workforce earlier than expected, and the education pipeline slowed for years.”

She said Cape Fear Valley Health hired 113 new nursing graduates this summer, at least 94 of whom are graduates of nursing programs in the state.

“To address these challenges, Cape Fear Valley Health has been proactive in strengthening partnerships with local nursing schools, offering free in-house training programs, providing scholarships and tuition reimbursement, recruiting international nurses and deploying traveling nurses on a contract basis to maintain adequate staffing levels. ,” Jordan said via email.

How to alleviate the nurse shortage

Edwards said both long-term and short-term solutions are needed to address the nursing shortage and workforce crisis across the country.

“Locally, we must balance the need to produce more nursing graduates from our nursing programs with a limited number of available and qualified nurses,” Edwards said. “Healthcare organizations will be tasked with balancing safe staffing ratios with potentially reduced nurse numbers, as well as retaining staff and preventing burnout. None of these are easy tasks.”

Currently, the School of Nursing at Fayetteville State University sees an average enrollment of 50 to 70 students in the junior and senior classes. Edwards said most graduates continue to work in the region.

The Methodist Traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is approved by the North Carolina Board of Nursing and can accommodate 60 students, with approximately 30 students per year, Matthews said. She said 22 students graduated in May and that by 2023, of the 50% of graduates who continued to work in the area, 30% chose to work in Fayetteville.

Cape Fear Valley Health also increased its maximum tuition reimbursement to $5,250 per employee per year and launched a new program last year to recruit people looking for a paid opportunity to start a career in health care, Jordan said. She said candidates with a high school diploma or GED can start working as comfort runners — commonly called modern candy stripers — while receiving on-the-job training to become certified nursing assistants, and the program includes a one-year employment contract. commitment to certification. Comfort runners ensure that patients receive food, water or company, if desired.

“Regardless of current challenges, I would encourage every aspiring nurse to design a plan for success and take the steps necessary to achieve their goal,” Edwards said. “Every career has challenges; nursing is no different. Our profession will evolve through this challenge and continue to focus our efforts on safe and high-quality patient care.”

Reporter Lizmary Evans covers growth and development for The Fayetteville Observer. Do you have an idea for a sequel to this story? Reach Lizmary at [email protected].

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