In what seems to be a game of one-upmanship, state after state has been releasing studies that confirm that the skies leading the Perfect Labor Storm have darkened. (See previous posts in the past week or two when Connecticut and Tennessee released reports about severe shortages that will affect their state economies.) The Perfect Labor Storm watch has been increased to a warning. (In meteorological terms that means “it’s here.”)
The latest state to report a severe shortage is the state of Georgia. Georgia’s despair focuses primarily on the critical shortage of physicians – general practitioners, family practice doctors, internal medicine doctors and OB/GYNs. These shortages are compounded by an alarming shortage of nurses. The report claims that health care worker shortages are affecting Georgia more than most states. Based on the Perfect Labor Storm news I receive daily, they will likely not get much sympathy from their neighbors – nearly every state has declared a “crisis” when it comes to filling at least one or more jobs ranging from farm workers to CEOs.
On Jan. 31, the state Senate Study Committee on the Shortage of Doctors and Nurses in Georgia issued a report that revealed some startling findings:
- Georgia ranks 44th in the nation for its ratio of primary care physicians to population. If immediate action isn’t taken, Georgia will rank last in the nation in the ratio of physicians (of any kind) to population by the year 2020—just 12 years away—with an “overwhelming shortage of more than 2,500 physicians.”
- Georgia ranks 42nd in the nation in its supply of RNs (registered nurses) and will need an additional 20,000 nurses by 2012—just four years away—to meet the demands of a growing and aging population. Even with a best-case scenario, and assuming all nursing graduates who pass the licensure exam remain in Georgiaand work full-time, it’s estimated that the state will only be able to produce a maximum of 12,000 RNs by 2012.
- If nothing is done to alleviate the nurse shortage, Georgia will have a shortfall of 37,000 RNs by 2020.
- There are approximately 12,000 RNs currently licensed in Georgia who choose not to work as a nurse due to job dissatisfaction.
Compounding the problem is the solution – training more nurses.
According to an article posted on SundayPaper.com (March 2, 2008), nurse shortages have been a perennial concern in America since at least the early ’70s. Today, with Georgia being the ninth most populous state and producing more patients every day, the situation is worse than ever. But nurse training in general is in peril. Georgia simply has too few nurse educators. Even if an aspiring nurse meets admission requirements, chances are he or she will have to wait at least several months, or even a year, before a slot in nursing school opens up; there just aren’t enough teachers.
And the problem’s only going to get worse in the next two years. According to the state Senate committee report, by 2010 nursing faculty retirements will reduce the current enrollment capacity in Georgia’s nursing schools by 26 percent.