Indiana Nursing Shortage in Focus

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(Photo Courtesy: Indiana State University) The Indiana State Board of Nursing says there are around 140,000 licensed nurses in Indiana. (Photo Courtesy: Indiana State University) The Indiana State Board of Nursing says there are around 140,000 licensed nurses in Indiana.

A state-issued list underscores at least one industry that is facing a need for workers so high, one executive says "it's not something we should ignore." Indiana Center for Nursing Chief Executive Officer Kimberly Harper is not surprised registered nursing topped the Indiana Department of Workforce Development's annual "Hoosier Hot 50 Jobs" list. She says the shortage is compounded by factors including fewer people entering the field, an aging baby boomer generation and other industries plucking away talent.

The DWD classifies the "Hot" jobs as those in the state in high-demand, paying high average wages. Registered nurses, it says, earn a median annual salary of more than $53,000. Indiana State University School of Nursing Executive Director Lea Hall says there is high demand among students to study nursing, and although she wishes the program could let in more prospective nurses, she says the goal is to train and graduate the "most qualified, safe and skilled" possible. One other reason she believes there is such a great need is the range of options RNs have beyond clinical care. Hall says "a broadening of the profession" continues, which is allowing RNs to be hired into less-traditional settings.

Kimberly Harper says some hospitals in Indiana, which are only a couple of years removed from big staffing cuts, are on "hiring blitzes." She says demand for RNs is only going to increase as more workers in the health care system are nearing retirement age and the over-70 population in the U.S. grows, creating "a perfect storm in a bad way" for the profession. She says another part of the equation is a nursing faculty shortage, which is causing some colleges and universities to have to turn away a number of interested students because of limited capacity to train them.

Harper says there are many programs designed to boost the number of Indiana RNs. For example, she says her organization and others are focusing fundraising efforts on scholarships to attract more students. She says colleges and universities throughout the state have stepped up efforts to offer more "seamless transition" pathways for existing nurses to "continue to climb that nursing educational ladder." She says there are programs such as Spotlight on Nursing, which offer scholarships and are also trying to provide incentives so more students and professionals would commit to becoming teaching faculty members in Indiana.

Today, the Indiana Center for Nursing is hosting a statewide nursing summit along with the Indiana Action Coalition at the Renaissance Indianapolis North Hotel to offer discussions and presentations on the future of nursing and share industry best practices.

Indiana State University School of Nursing Executive Director Lea Hall says she is "very excited" by the ranking.
Indiana Center for Nursing Chief Executive Officer Kimberly Harper tells Inside INdiana Business "today, we're not desperate," but that could change.
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