Nursing shortage question and CPHE thoughts

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Is there a nursing shortage in Southeast Missouri? As chairman of a subcommittee established by the advisory committee of the Cape Girardeau Partnership for Higher Education, we have been asked to analyze and answer this question. I will share some information with you.

It seems that some of the principals of one of the hospitals in Cape Girardeau generally feel there is a nursing shortage (now or in the immediate future), and some of the principals in the other major hospital question that there is a shortage. Our committee has called in outside third parties to help us review this issue.

In addition to using staff at the Missouri Hospital Association, the committee has also sought input most recently from OSEDA, an office of the University of Missouri Extension System dealing with social and economic data analysis.

If you Google "nursing shortage," you instantly get 954,000 results (many of them quite scholarly) that say there is a nursing shortage. However, if you Google "no nursing shortage," you get 436,000 results claiming there is "no nursing shortage" (also some quite scholarly).

To narrow it down, if you Google "nursing shortage in Cape Girardeau," you get 8,720 results (many of them not very scholarly) and "no nursing shortage in Cape Girardeau" gets 6,580 results.

It appears to me that whether there is or is not depends. Like the winners of pro football playoffs, it many times depends on fumbles, interceptions and injuries, along with the quality of athletes and coaches.

A nursing shortage depends a great deal on the aging population (both the general population and that of nurses), the uninsured, etc., and how Medicare, Medicaid and "Obamacare" address these issues without bankrupting our economy and running doctors out of practice, many voluntarily.

A shortage of doctors would increase the need for more nurses, nursing education facilities, instructors, etc. Which brings us back full circle to the hospitals, the higher education nursing programs, facilities, costs, etc. Now you understand the problem, but is or isn't there a nursing shortage?

To clear up another issue ... why the name the Cape Girardeau Partnership for Higher Educatio? Though it functions like a community college, you can't call it that because it doesn't officially meet the Missouri legal definition of a community college. This is mainly because it is not funded directly by the Missouri government and has not been created by an area taxing district and been approved by the Missouri Coordinating Board of Higher Education (MDHE).

The Partnership is a cooperative effort of Southeast Missouri State University, Three Rivers Community College and Mineral Area Community College located at the Career and Technology Center next to Cape Girardeau Central High School. Its current enrollment of almost 200 students will hopefully reach 400 by next fall. I expect an effort will eventually be made to create a "community college" with all that it entails, including an expanded nurse training program if the attendance levels reaches 1,000.

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-- Forbes

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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