Temporary lull in nursing shortage hurts nursing homes, new analysis suggests

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Nursing homes aren't reaping the benefits of a temporary easing of the nursing shortage nationwide caused by generally improved economic conditions, a new analysis finds.

The recession is spurring dramatic increases in nurse employment, with as many as 243,000 nurses joining (or re-joining) the workforce in 2007-2008, according to researcher Peter Buerhaus, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Unfortunately for long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, most of those nurses are seeking employment at hospitals and acute-care facilities. In fact, the number of full-time registered nurses in non-hospital settings such as long-term care and skilled nursing facilities fell by 50,000 in 2008, according to Buerhaus, who attributes the precipitous drop to more attractive compensation and bonus packages provided by hospitals and acute-care facilities.

Nurse recruitment tends to rise during economic slumps, according to Buerhaus' study, but never so much as in recent years. Full-time nurse employment increased 8.6% during this crisis, compared to the 5.3% average found during other recessions. Buerhaus, a well-regarded figure in the world of nursing studies, says it may be tempting for lawmakers to curtail their efforts at quashing the nursing shortage in light of these numbers, but they should remember the positive recruitment effects of the recession are temporary at best. The report can be found at www.healthaffairs.org.
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