doubtful that a crisis in the nursing profession exists now and
promises to worsen should listen to Edward Salsberg, director of
the Center for Health Workforce Studies on SUNY's Albany campus.
Everywhere he has looked, he finds disturbing data. Here are some
1996 there has been a steady decline in RN graduations in New York
State. In 1995, at CUNY, there were 1,232 RN graduates; in 2001,
780-a 37% decline.
o With in-patient days declining and hospitals increasingly becoming
large intensive care units, the demand for full-time RN's (who make
up 26% of all hospital employees) has jumped 23% since 1992.
o Minorities are seriously under-represented in the profession.
Five percent of RN's in 2000 were African American (but 12% of the
population); 2% of RN's were Hispanic (11.4% of the population).
Edward Salsberg delivering some daunting data at the "Crising
in Nursing" conferenc.
not the only messenger delivering bad news at a major day-long conference
on "The Crisis in Nursing" co-sponsored by CUNY and 1199 Service
Employees International Union and moderated by Executive Vice Chancellor
for Academic Affairs Louise Mirrer at The Graduate Center last March
29. The subtitle of the keynote address, a demographic analysis
by Dr. Peter Buerhaus, a leading scholar on the profession and Professor
of Nursing at Vanderbilt University, said it all: "Trouble Now,
Big Trouble Ahead."
In a recent article on the aging RN workforce, Buerhaus noted further
disturbing data, notably that between 1983 and 1998 the average
age of RN's has risen 4-1/2 years to age 42, and the number of working
RN's under 30 has fallen from 419,000 to 246,000 (a 41% decline).
Down the road, as early as 2005, Buerhaus sees serious problems
as the large cohort of RN's from the 77-million-strong "baby boom"
(1946-1964) begin to retire, and they are succeeded by the much
smaller 44-million "baby bust" generation (a.k.a. Gen-X).
If there was
a silver lining to all these dark clouds at the conference-which
was sponsored jointly by CUNY's John F. Kennedy Jr. Institute for
Worker Education and the 1199 Service Employees International Union/League
Employment, Training and Job Security Fund-it was a galvanizing
sense of "the need for collaboration between institutions of higher
education, organized labor, the health care industry, and government"
(the official subtitle of the conference).
In this proactive spirit, Governor George Pataki not only kicked
off the conference with special remarks, but also took the occasion
to announce a $3 million grant to create a CUNY/1199 worker education
center in the Bronx to train healthcare workers, including nurses.
Citing Bureau of Labor statistics, he noted that between 1993 and
2004 there will be 473,000 RN job openings, and between 1998 and
2008 the figure jumps to 794,000.
opening ceremonies were two plenary sessions addressing "The Nursing
Pipeline" and "Nursing and Re-organization of the Workplace." In
these and other smaller sessions many large questions were addressed,
among them: How can career ladders by enhanced within the profession?
What strategies can be developed to diversify the nursing profession?
How can collaborative efforts increase retention and improve the
quality of care?
In response to the dismaying data, Chancellor Matthew Goldstein
convened a special Nursing Task Force, chaired by BMCC President
Antonio Perez, with the support of CUNY's new University Dean for
Health Sciences, Dr. Rosa Gil. Gil emphasizes the professional diversity
of the more than two dozen Task Force members. Among them are representatives
of five hospital systems, two managed care companies, a pharmaceutical
company, a home health care agency, and chairs of six of CUNY's
eleven nursing programs. Gil, formerly Chairperson of the NYC Health
and Hospitals Corporation, adds that two principal goals of the
Nursing Task Force, which met for the first time on June 6, will
be to study comprehensively how nursing educators and programs can
better meet the needs of the health care field and to develop more
effective recruitment strategies.
In his letter to prospective Task Force participants, Chancellor
Goldstein set mid-November as a goal for a final report, with implementation
of a CUNY-wide nursing education plan by Spring 2002.