Texas has a serious shortage of nurses. This is not a new problem, but it is getting worse instead of better. In 2007, there were 19,243 nursing jobs that went unfilled, because there simply weren't enough qualified applicants to fill those positions.
At the current rate, by 2020 (only 13 years from now) the shortage will climb to 70,628. Even in a state as large as Texas, this cannot help but affect the quality of care that patients will be receiving.
Some hospitals are already having to turn away patients, even though they have unused beds available. They just do not have enough nurses to care for those they turn away. In many places, nurses are working longer hours and extra shifts and caring for more patients than is recommended.
Patient care is now being affected and it will only get worse. This used to be just a problem for rural areas, but now it is fast becoming a problem all over the state. It is not unusual for good hospitals that offer excellent salaries to still be short dozens of nurses.
The problem is even more critical in nursing homes because they cannot compete with the salaries offered by the hospitals. Currently, the turnover rate for Registered Nurses in nursing homes is 97%. There is no way that can not be affecting the health of nursing home patients.
Why is this happening? Do people just not want to enter the nursing profession? Not at all. There are plenty of people that would love to be nurses. In 2005 alone, nursing schools turned away 11,000 qualified applicants. They turned them away because the schools don't have the money to hire enough faculty to teach these applicants.
This is a problem that can be solved. It can be solved by adequately funding our state's nursing schools. But it won't be done by wishful thinking. It's going to take some leadership in Austin.
It's time for our state leadership to stop pandering to corporate interests and solve some of our state's problems. The nursing shortage would be a good place to start.