Nurse shortage forces hospital to close beds

A shortage of registered nurses has become so severe at one South Dakota hospital that it’s actually been forced to close hospital beds.

Rapid City Regional Hospital has 417 licensed beds, but up to 20 of them are going unused each day, due to a lack of RNs, ABC affiliate "KOTA Territory News" reports. The hospital has even resorted to using temp nurses to fill the void, Laura Wightman, R.N., chief nursing officer for the hospital’s parent health system, tells the local TV station.

"Travelers are helping us to get by at a very difficult time,” she says. “As we build our permanent team, we'll use less and less travel nurses."

Shutting down beds, Wightman says, was an “absolute last resort” to help ensure patient safety. The hospital is now working to fill the hiring hole, with Regional Health system just bringing aboard 90 new nurses at the tail end of 2015, KOTA reports.

Assessing the landscape for nurse leader salaries

Curious what you stand to gain by grabbing an advanced degree and moving up to a nurse executive position? Well one organization wants to help.

The American Organization of Nurse Executives is now working to gather data for its recurring salary and compensation survey for nurse leaders, set to hit the Web in June. Those interested in participating can reach out to Research Manager Alison Bramer over at consulting firm McKinley Advisors before the Jan. 21 deadline.

The previous iteration of the survey — released in 2013, and available to AONE members in its resource library — gathered salary data from some 4,000 nurse leaders.  A couple of tidbits from the 68-page survey of nurse leaders include:

  • Almost one-third (31 percent) of nurse execs earn a salary of between $100,000 and $130,000. About 35 percent earn less than $100,000.
  • RN executives with the military, VA or government are the most likely (85 percent) to earn between $80,000 and $160,000 annually.
  • Nurse leaders with doctorates (38 percent) or master’s degrees (22 percent) are the most likely to earn more than $160,000.

For more on that last topic, I thought this was an interesting piece from last week on how the Ph.D.-prepared nurse is primed to help lead health care’s transformation. And yet, less than 1 percent of the nursing workforce holds a doctorate, according to the folks at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing Scholars Program, who wrote the article.

The top priorities for nurse leaders

If you’re a nurse executive still looking to set his or her strategic direction for 2016, the Advisory Board Co. has a few tips.

The consulting firm last week released a list of the top six priorities for RN leaders, along with similar lists for executives in other hospital segments. Here’s a quick look at the nurse list from the ABC managing director and nurse expert, Jennifer Stewart. You can read the full details here.

1.     Ensure that every patient receives the known standard of care in every setting, every time.

2.     Prepare for a potential nursing shortage.

3.     Make early bets about reshaping your clinical workforce.

4.     Seek greater consensus on the “right” way to staff a clinic.

5.     Continue to control costs — but not by cutting labor.

6.     Expand front-line nurses’ focus from discharge to care continuity.

The nine habits of highly effective nurses

Since we all seem to love numbered lists nowadays, I figured I might as well throw one more in here. This one slipped under my radar in December.

The Sunbelt Staffing firm recently offered up a list of nine habits that the best nurses seem to share in common, whether they’re just starting their first gig, or have been in the nursing game for decades. They include:

  1. Avoid taking shortcuts: Saving time can be beneficial, but not at the cost of completing tasks correctly.
  2. Don’t rush tasks: No matter how frantic the day may seem, rushing only leads to mistakes.
  3. Look for opportunities to grow: Whether you’re building new areas of expertise or taking refresher courses for what you already know — a thirst for knowledge is an invaluable trait.
  4. Manage time: Being punctual and managing a packed schedule should become second nature to an effective nurse.
  5. Ask for help: Being a nurse is tough, so if a helping hand is needed, don’t fret over asking for support.
  6. Be focused and proactive: Meeting targets and staying on top of your workload will save you time in the long run.
  7. Set goals: Setting personal targets will offer motivation and encourage good habits.
  8. Be a team player: You can’t do it all on your own, so getting along with your fellow co-workers is vital to a job well-done.
  9. Communicate clearly: Whether it’s frantic coworkers or distressed patients, effective communication is the best tool at your disposal.

Do none of these traits match up with your own habits? Feeling frustrated with the day-to-day rigors of the nursing profession? Sunbelt Staffing also last week offered up yet another list of five signs that it might be time for a career change for RNs.