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Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

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By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

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By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

Nursing crisis looms over Iowa

By Lynda Waddington | 05.04.09 | 10:51 am
Across the spectrum, the age of nursing faculty in Iowa is growing dangerously high. Since there is already a shortage of qualified instructors for existing nursing programs, the reality that a large percentage of advance faculty will retire in the next five years makes creating new faculty members a priority. (Source: Iowa Board of Nursing Annual Program Reports, Dec. 2007)

Across the spectrum, the age of nursing faculty in Iowa is growing dangerously high. Since there is already a shortage of qualified instructors for existing nursing programs, the reality that a large percentage of advance faculty will retire in the next five years makes creating new faculty members a priority. (Source: Iowa Board of Nursing Annual Program Reports, Dec. 2007)

A shortage of nurses has caused concern among elected officials and health care analysts for decades. At least two Iowa governors have convened task forces to investigate the problem and offer recommendations.

With all the added scrutiny and few practical solutions to show for it, most signs point to a nursing crisis that continues to get worse, and Iowa is likely to bear the brunt of it.

The American Health Care Association estimated in July that 116,000 nursing positions in hospitals and more than 19,000 positions in long-term care facilities were vacant. The problem is projected to skyrocket by 2010 to an estimated shortage of 275,000 nurses. By 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services anticipates a shortage of 1 million nurses.

A significant cause of the problem is a lack of qualified educators to train new nurses. Nearly 2,000 otherwise qualified applicants to Iowa nursing programs were not able to attend in 2008 due to educator shortages.

“It is the single largest contributor to the shortage,” explained Dr. Rita A. Frantz, professor and dean of the University of Iowa College of Nursing. “We have a national shortage of nurse faculty as well as a shortage of practicing nurses. The two are intricately intertwined. That is, without the appropriate number of nurse faculty, we can’t admit all the qualified applicants to our nursing programs.”

And new nurses are not only needed to fill existing vacancies but to replace a rapidly aging nursing workforce.

In December 2007, the Iowa Board of Nursing stated that 41 percent of the state’s active licensed practical nurses (LPNs) were age 47 and up. In addition, 51 percent of the active registered nurses (RNs) in the state were age 47 and above.

“Here at the University of Iowa, the average age of a faculty member is 56,” Frantz said. “If you look at them by rank, with the most senior rank being a full professor, the average age is 59. Those are your more senior, experienced researchers and teachers. We’re going to have large numbers of them leaving the academic environment to retire in a fairly short period of time.”

Only eight counties in the state of Iowa have more than 1,000 registered nurses. This map, developed by the Iowa Board of Nursing, provides the number of nurses, RNs and LPNs, in each of the 99 counties. Click to view larger graphic.

Only eight counties in the state of Iowa have more than 1,000 registered nurses. This map, developed by the Iowa Board of Nursing, provides the number of nurses, RNs and LPNs, in each of the 99 counties. Click to view larger graphic.

Demographic shifts, worsening economy exacerbate Iowa’s nursing crisis

The Iowa Nursing Task Force, which presented a written report in March 2008, predicted that by 2020, the state would experience a shortfall of about 9,000 RNs, or one-fourth of the current workforce.

This is dire news for the Hawkeye State, whose aging population places increasing demands on health care services, especially on long-term facilities. An older population, combined with trends of younger families vacating rural counties, could result in a magnified problem in Iowa’s rural areas and smaller hospitals.

“Because rural hospitals have a primary population of older patients, their primary revenue stream is from Medicare,” Frantz said. “Those reimbursement rates for acute care hospitalization are in many cases not sufficient to cover the costs of delivering care to that patient population. … Hospitals in larger areas draw from a larger cross-section of the general population and have more sources for their revenue stream.”

As more of the population is impacted by the economic downturn, more people will likely turn to public health care coverage like Medicare/Medicaid as their primary coverage. This forces even mid-sized, urban hospitals in Iowa to tighten their belts, implementing hiring freezes to control costs. That can have the effect of masking the underlying nursing shortage.

“Hiring freezes are the case in some pockets of the country,” said Frantz. “I worry that might be misinterpreted by the public to mean that the nursing shortage is over. That is not the case. It is a blip on the economic radar screen.”

Frantz believes that once the economy improves and unemployed or underemployed people return to work, many will once again begin full use of health care benefits.

“There is a projection that once the economy turns around again, we will have a huge upswing in the demand for health care services,” she said. “Along with that will come a major upswing for nursing services. At that same time, we have these factors that we know are contributing to the shortage. Those will be more evident and place further stress on health care facilities at the same time.”

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Comments

  • commoniowan

    The answer is forgivable loans and better pay.

    My wife is a nurse and could have made $10,000 to $15,000 a year in Kansas City, Minneapolis, or Chicago. She would get postcards in the mail monthly from hospitals there recruiting her and advertising signing bonuses.

    We didn't have any student loans and decided to stay in Iowa to be closer to family.

  • MedCareProvider

    We believe at http://www.medcareprovider.com/nurse-transfer.htm that —- Putting extra money in different projects —- is not the ultimate solution to meet the immediate demand of NURSES or DOCTORS.

    We need to allow more work visa for foreign nurses while we educate locally to meet the demand for future.

    REMEMBER: – BABY BOOMER ARE NOT GETTING YOUNGER AND EFTER RESESSION – DEMAND IS GOING TO COME LIKE AN AVALANCHE.

  • CityTrauma

    I'm sorry Medcarprovider, but you are wrong! I'm a registered nurse and the answer is NOT to allow MORE foreign trained RN's into the US to work. It is to train more professors and PAY THEM MORE to teach the nursing students that are here in our own country! Nursing students all over this country cannot get into programs because there are not enough professors to teach. One reason for this is a nursing professor with a masters degree can make and I am giving the higher end of the scale here, $60k per year. A law professor makes well over 100k per year. Big difference.

    This country needs to take care of it's OWN PEOPLE and give it's OWN PEOPLE jobs and get them into schools before they start allowing foreign trained nurses to come in and take their jobs!
    Foreign nurses is the very last resort!

  • CityTrauma

    IMedcareprovider, you are wrong! I'm a registered nurse and the answer is NOT to allow MORE foreign trained RN's into the US to work. It is to train more professors and PAY THEM MORE to teach the nursing students that are here in our own country! Nursing students all over this country cannot get into programs because there are not enough professors to teach. One reason for this is a nursing professor with a masters degree can make and I am giving the higher end of the scale here, $60k per year. A law professor makes well over 100k per year. Big difference and there should NOT be.

    This country needs to take care of its OWN PEOPLE and give them jobs and get them into schools before they start allowing foreign trained nurses to come in and take their jobs!
    Foreign nurses is the very last resort!

  • nursestaff

    Now there is a high demand for nurses in US. Now the time to analysis the problem and to solve it.
    To find your best career visit staffing power

  • nursestaff

    Now there is a high demand for nurses in US. Now the time to analysis the problem and to solve it.
    To find your best career visit staffing power

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PGR22X243YVAZXOJFV6AFQEDQA rufun2sun

    There is no nursing shortage, just ask any Nurse looking for work like me. the market is flooded with nurses looking for work and there are new ones every year. 

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