UIHC, nursing school face nurse shortage


By Emi Bendler

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The nursing shortage has not only affected the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, the UI College of Nursing has also felt its effects in faculty.
“We would like to address the nursing shortage by educating as many nurses as we possibly can, but the problem is there’s even a greater nursing-faculty shortage,” said Mary Dirks, a UI clinical professor and assistant dean for Graduate Practice Programs.

The UIHC has around 200 positions that are vacant or will be in the near future, said Emily Wynn, an interim co-chief nursing officer at the UIHC.

Thad Wilson, interim dean of the UI Nursing College, said the nursing shortage has the potential to affect the number of students who attend the nursing school.

“We’ve grown actually in the number of undergraduate students that we’ve allowed in the program over the last three years,” he said.

Additionally, Wilson noted that a large number of nursing students, around 60 percent over the last few years, have ended up working at the UIHC.

Wilson said there is real frustration in the lack of nursing-faculty applications. While his colleagues in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences have hundreds of applicants to search for hirings, the College of Nursing only has two or three — a number he wishes would increase.

“The number of doctorally prepared, qualified [faculty] applicants is unfortunately a small pool, and everybody is trying to recruit that group of people,” Wilson said.

However, Wilson said the nursing school has hit its cap number of students because taking in more would mean needing more faculty.

Despite the nursing shortage, the UIHC and the nursing school continue to have a strong relationship.

“The University of Iowa College of Nursing and UIHC have strong collaborative relationships,”  said Anita Nicholson, the associate dean for Undergraduate Programs in the nursing school. “UIHC provides many wonderful clinical experiences for our pre-licensure undergraduate nursing students, and in turn, many of them seek employment.”

While the UIHC faces a nursing shortage, Wynn said, the lack of nursing staff is caused by additions to the hospital.

“Our hiring has outnumbered our attrition since 2014, so while that number [200 positions] seems large, it can be mostly attributed to our growth [of the hospital],” she said.

The additions to the UIHC, she said, include new inpatient units, new observation units, and additional beds being opened this fall.

Despite the shortage of nursing staff, she said, the UIHC has had good luck with recruitment.

“We did a critical-care recruitment event on March 4, and we had over 65 attendees from four different states attend, and from that, we’ve had at least 25 offers that we’ve placed,” she said. “We’re planning now our next acute-care and oncology job fair for May.”

Wynn also praised the UIHC’s job-shadowing program, in which people can interview for a chance to shadow a nurse for one of their shifts.

In addition to recruitment events and job shadowing, the UIHC also has learning opportunities for both college and younger students.

“We are definitely getting out into the community to do community-based events here in the hospital for grade-school students and high-school students,” she said.

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