Although the healthcare industry is one that is often considered to be recession-proof, there is a lack of qualified educators, which is in turn creating a lack of qualified workers to fill healthcare jobs. However, an effort is underway to help create more Rhode Island nursing jobs.
A special legislative commission recently unveiled a proposal to give educators in Rhode Island’s nursing schools a yearly tax credit of $3,500. The credit is an attempt to keep professionals teaching and help prepare for the expected oncoming shortage of nurses throughout the state.
It is expected that Rhode Island will have a shortfall of 1,800 registered nurses by next year. According to an article by The Providence Journal, that number could grow to a shortage of 6,500 registered nurses by 2020. Part of the reason for the lack of qualified nurses is that many potential students are turned away from programs because of a lack of teachers.
However, some people are arguing that there is not a shortage of nurses, but a shortage of people hiring nurses. But this may only be because many nurses are working overtime and delaying retirement in order to keep up with demand. For instance, 60 percent of Rhode Island nurses work full-time, up from 40 percent a few years ago. At the same time, the average age of a nurse in Rhode Island is 50.
“You’re going to see a rapid exit of nurses once the economy turns,” Donna Policastro, executive director of the Rhode Island State Nurses Association, said in the article. “That aging nurse who is hanging on for dear life is going to leave, retire, and there won’t be enough people to replace them.”
There are some nursing jobs available, as the vacancy rate for all nursing positions in the state is 6.8 percent, down from 13 percent in 2008. However, many graduates only want to work the day shift in a hospital instead of settling for nursing home or home healthcare jobs.
In a sort of Catch-22, the hospitals that have jobs available often don’t want to hire new graduates because they can be expensive to train and are afraid they will leave once they receive proper training.
On top of everything else, nurses who teach in Rhode Island nursing schools make less than those working in private-sector jobs. If the proposed tax credit is passed, the state could lose as much as a half-million dollars. But that could be offset by the economic benefits to healthcare facilities that hire graduates, as they would save millions of dollars in overtime pay, recruitment costs and temporary help.