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Recession Affecting Nursing Profession

By CityTownInfo.com Staff

March 17, 2009

Nursing, considered by many to be a recession-proof field, is now beginning to feel the pinch of the economic downturn.

The Arizona Daily Star reports that the University of Arizona's College of Nursing recently canceled a career fair due to a lack of interest from hospitals. Moreover, the school will be admitting 48 fewer students this year, resulting from cuts to a partnership program with local hospitals: Tucson Medical Center will fund only eight students this year instead of 16, and the Carondelet Health Network is eliminating all 40 student spots it previously funded.

Vickie Radoye, assistant dean for student affairs at UA, remained optimistic. "I think this is a temporary pause due to the economic climate," she told the Arizona Daily Star. "What I'm hearing is that nurses who are already working are not retiring, and some of those who were part time and now going full time. I'm sure it will turn around. The projection of a critical nursing shortage is sound; it's not going to change."

Joyce Benjamin, executive director of the Arizona Nurses Association, explained that there will always be jobs for nurses, but the competition for the best ones is much tougher this year.

"A lot has to do with the economy," she noted. "Nurses are staying in their jobs, not wanting to move around. And then hospitals are doing due diligence with the economy, putting things on hold, and hospital admissions and ER visits are down. People are putting a hold on elective surgeries."

Radoye pointed out that applications to UA's College of Nursing are nearly double what they were for all of 2008, and there's still one more deadline this year. The college received a total of 488 applications for 102 spots in its bachelor's of science nursing program.

In a related story, two U.S. representatives recently introduced a bill that would establish a federal student loan repayment program for nurses who earn a master's or doctorate in nursing and agree to teach full-time at an accredited school for at least four years. The bill is expected to help more individuals to be trained as nurses, since part of the reason so many applicants are rejected is due to a shortage of qualified nursing educators.

PRNewswire reports that the bill, proposed by Iowa Rep. Tom Latham and Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin, would give nurses an incentive to become nurse educators. On the average, nursing educators receive salaries about 20 percent less than nurses in clinical practice. The Nurses' Higher Education and Loan Repayment Act would repay loans up to $40,000 for nurses earning their master's degree, and up to $80,000 for earning their doctorate.

"We cannot train and retain skilled nurses without first ensuring sufficient numbers of qualified nursing instructors," Baldwin said. "This legislation offers a long-term solution to that problem."

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