Thursday, September 30, 2004

Nursing shortage in area abates

Hospital vacancies drop from 19% to 9%

By Tim Bonfield
Enquirer staff writer

The shortage of nurses in Greater Cincinnati has lessened considerably in the past year, as have vacancy rates for several other hard-to-fill health jobs, according to a report Wednesday from the Greater Cincinnati Health Council.

As of June 30, about 9 percent of hospital nursing jobs were unfilled. That's much better than 19 percent as of year-end 2003 and 15 percent as of June 2003.

The improvement reflects numerous recruitment and retention efforts at hospitals and nursing schools, from hospitals paying for scholarships and hiring bonuses to area tech schools promoting health careers, said Lisa Blank, director of the council's Healthcare Workforce Center.

The shift also reflects people living in a tough economy seeking out relatively well-paying health jobs, she said.

Beyond nursing - the single largest category of health jobs - the report shows the vacancy rate for radiation therapy technologists dropping from 20 percent to 4 percent in the past year; CT technologist openings falling from 19 percent to 3 percent; and vascular technician vacancies falling from 14 percent to 9 percent.

The report compared hard-to-fill jobs from 11 hospitals and hospital groups, including hospitals as far north as Wilmington and as far south as Williamstown.

The hospitals didn't reduce vacancy rates by eliminating open jobs. In fact, hospitals added nurses in the past year. There were 6,681 full-time nurse jobs in 2004 versus 5,219 in 2003, according to the report. But the reduced vacancies do not mean that concerns about a nursing shortage are gone. The average age of nurses - now about 43 - is still rising, which portends a nursing-supply problem in years to come as older nurses retire.

"The nursing shortage isn't going away. What this shows me is that as a city we're doing much better," Blank said.


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