Nurses A year of more la­bor strife?

Modern Healthcare - - SPECIAL REPORT -

First in­dus­try of­fi­cials com­plained there weren’t enough nurses. Then nurs­ing school grad­u­ates com­plained there weren’t enough jobs, and they at­tended school for noth­ing. Those two is­sues haven’t ex­actly been put to rest in the past year, and it doesn’t look as if 2012 will pose many so­lu­tions. Anec­dotes from re­cent nurs­ing school grads con­flict with the work of re­searchers. A study pub­lished in De­cem­ber in the pol­icy jour­nal Health Af­fairs re­vealed job op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­ist, as the largest co­hort of nurses ever, ages 23 to 26, have joined the work­force. From 2002 to 2009, 165,000 nurses from that age bracket joined the work­ing ranks, sur­pass­ing the co­hort from 1956. Re­searchers say that num­ber will con­tinue to grow.

Un­cle Sam re­ceived much of the credit for the in­creased op­por­tu­ni­ties, with an in­flux of fed­eral grants of­fered to ex­pand nurs­ing schools and to help with tu­ition costs. How­ever, there are still sto­ries from re­cent nurs­ing school grad­u­ates frus­trated that they can’t find jobs, ac­knowl­edges Geral­dine “Polly” Bed­nash, CEO and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Washington-based Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Col­leges of Nurs­ing.

Com­pe­ti­tion for ad­mit­tance in ac­cel­er­ated nurs­ing school pro­grams aimed at stu­dents al­ready with ca­reers in other in­dus­tries will likely con­tinue. Bed­nash also says there’s an in­creased pref­er­ence by em­ploy­ers for bet­ter-qual­i­fied nurses. That’s why four-year Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence nurs­ing pro­grams will re­main pop­u­lar.

“We’re go­ing to con­tinue to see the de­mand,” Bed­nash says.

But even as nurses and re­searchers try to fig­ure out which way the in­dus­try’s work­force is trend­ing, an­other theme emerged, one likely to spread fur­ther through­out the coun­try in the com­ing year.

While nurses say their pref­er­ence is to avoid them, one-day strikes started pop­ping up from Cal­i­for­nia to New York, and the word “strike” is no longer a dirty term in the lex­i­con of the health­care worker.

While hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials pre­fer to keep la­bor ne­go­ti­a­tions pri­vate, to avoid a fight where nurses could ap­pear as sym­pa­thetic fig­ures in the pub­lic’s eye, says An­thony Riz­zotti, a health­care at­tor­ney in the Bos­ton law of­fices of Lit­tler Mendel­son, they won’t have as much con­trol in 2012.

“The nurses unions in the past agreed not to use strikes as a weapon,” he says. “But



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