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Independent Budget/Nursing Section - Nurses Organization of ...

Independent Budget/Nursing Section - Nurses Organization of ...

Independent Budget/Nursing Section - Nurses Organization of

ATTRACTING AND RETAINING A QUALITY NURSING WORKFORCE: The Veterans Health Administration must devote sufficient resources to prevent a national shortage of nurses from creeping into and potentially overwhelming VA’s critical health-care missions. Retention and recruitment of high-caliber health-care professionals and other staff is critical to the mission of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and essential to providing safe, high-quality health-care services to sick and disabled veterans. During the current economic recession and slow recovery, hospital employment of full-time nurses has increased, which has eased the hospital nursing shortage. However, relief is likely to be temporary, and there is a need to focus on how the current workforce is changing and its implications for future imbalances in the nurse labor market in the years ahead. In the long term, research points to the development of another nursing shortage, one that will be larger than any experienced previously. Given the impact of this impending nationwide nursing shortage and the resulting difficulty in filling nursing and other key positions within VHA, this is a continuing challenge for the Department of Veterans Affairs. This section presents key points specific to VHA’s nursing programs, with recommendations that the Independent Budget veterans service organizations (IBVSOs) believe will help VA conquer this challenge. Addressing the National Nursing Shortage Recruitment efforts within VHA focus on strategies to attract and hire registered nurses (RNs) into the organization. The VHA’s Healthcare Retention & Recruitment Office (HRRO) continues to coordinate system-wide comprehensive programs for recruiting RNs, including high school outreach nursing programs (“HONOR”), internships for nursing students (“VALOR”), and recruitment and retention incentives, scholarships, and loan repayment programs. The HRRO conducted an analysis of past scholarship programs that demonstrated their positive impact on retention, showing that loss rates for nurse scholarship participants (7.5 percent) are lower than turnover for nonscholarship recipients (10 percent) and that fewer than one percent of nurses completing their one-to-three-year service obligation ultimately leave VA. This year, the funding for National Nursing Education Initiative (NNEI) scholarships is severely limited which will have a negative effect on nursing retention and recruitment. The IBVSOs believe VA recognizes that in the near term the supply of qualified nurses in the nation will be inadequate to meet increasing demand for services. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), in 2004, 28 percent of RNs were over the age of 50. The aging nursing workforce significantly contributes to the overall nursing shortage. The cohort of RNs over the age of 50 has expanded 11 percent annually over the past four years. The current recession has induced older nurses to delay retirement, and others to rejoin the workforce. Since 70 percent of RNs are married, many had little choice as their spouses lost their jobs or feared that they might be in jeopardy of losing employment. According to a study by Buerhaus and colleagues (2009), 1 between 2001 and 2008, RN employment increased by 18 percent; however, 77 percent of that increase was RNs older than 50–the age group that is growing the fastest among professional nursing. Because RNs older than 50 will soon 1 P. Buerhaus, D. Auerbach, and D. Staiger, “The Recent Surge in Nurse Employment: Causes and Implications.” Health Affairs, (Project Hope). July–August, 2009, 28(4):w657–68.

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