Nurses are projected to be in demand for at least the next half-dozen years, according to data from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. That includes a variety of nursing careers from registered nurses, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses.
From 2014 to 2024, the DLLR projects the number of jobs will have increased by about 19.7 percent for registered nurses, by about 33.4 percent for nurse practitioners and by about 35.1 percent for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses. That’s an increase of nearly 22,000 jobs for those slices of nursing alone.
Elizabeth Weglein, chief executive officer of the Elizabeth Cooney Care Network, said Maryland is experiencing a nursing deficit that will compound as the state’s population ages. Without incentives and support systems, she said, the problem will become worse.
Some institutions in Maryland, large systems that have money and other resources, will recruit worldwide to find the best nurses. Many organizations must meet staffing ratio requirements, and some are paying registered nurses market value salaries and offering signing bonuses of as much as $10,000 to $20,000.
To recruit and retain good nurses, institutions need money, time, vision and implementation, Weglein said, and while some have those resources, smaller institutions are at a disadvantage. They might only be able to recruit nurses just out of school because they pay lower rates than larger institutions, and that leads them to have a less experienced workforce.
“This is a cyclical issue, and we are in a crisis for two reasons because the support systems within the state have sunsetted,” Weglein said.
Funding for nursing programs and tax breaks for nurses were backed by strong state legislation, she said, but those have not been re-enacted. She said Maryland is known for its “feds, eds, and meds,” a nickname for three large workforces (federal employees, employees of higher education, and healthcare employees) in the state.
The need for nurses is already very high in a state with so many large medical facilities, but nurses are needed in all sorts of places. Consider nursing homes, school systems, prisons and home healthcare. There is also the range of specialties, for newborn to elderly patients, for those with disabilities, or for those with illnesses such as cancer or chronic disease.
Weglein said some registered nurse job openings can take six to nine months to fill.
“Recruiting and retaining RNS is a high touch now, and it will only get more aggressive as we continue to age,” Weglein said. “Our population has not reached its peak of needing care.”
Additionally, many people are providing “lay care,” a term that describes health care provided by a nonprofessional, such as when someone without healthcare training provides healthcare for a family member at home.
People who are provided with professional healthcare are less likely to go to the emergency room. Having a registered nurse overseeing care provides a better layer of protection, Weglein said.
Maryland has a full array of nursing opportunities, and the demand is greater than the supply, she said. With so many different types of nurses, the state uses nurse surveyors to maintain quality.
But even with quality controls, demand affects how experienced nurses are at each organization. Many nursing programs in the state have waiting lists, Weglein said. The average age of a nurse instructor is about 67, she said, and there is a demand for teachers.
Without good legislation providing incentives and support for nurses, nursing students, and nursing programs, the problem, will get worse, she said.
Weglein’s grandmother, Elizabeth Cooney, founded the Elizabeth Cooney Care Network 61 years ago, and Weglein knows about the changes in nursing in Maryland. In the late 1970s, another nursing shortage gave birth to the licensed practical nurse. There were not enough registered nurses to provide care, so hospitals began training all of their nurse aids in a one- to two-year accelerated program.
In Maryland, legislation has helped prevent such a shortage to reoccur, but Weglein said the Maryland General Assembly will need to re-enact some of the legislation it has let lapse. Weglein helped write some of those regulations and helped create the certified nursing assistant program in 1996.
“That is the structural underpinning that really does work and we know it has worked for decades,” Weglein said.
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