Nurse sharks: Enloe weighs governor’s plan
A group of administrators weighed in May 2 at a hastily called nursing-shortage round table set up by representatives from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office.
The governor has proposed a plan that over the course of five years would put $90 million, $18 million of it from private grants and community colleges, toward improving opportunities for nursing education.
Moderating the “policy briefing” was Tom Johnson, secretary of the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The nursing shortage is real. It’s growing,” he said. “It’s adversely impacting the health of California.”
Enloe execs met the plan cheerfully, or at least politely.
“Anything we can do to develop more nurses is a great idea,” said Jan Ellis, vice president of nursing services for Enloe. She said it would also help to create more chances to move up the career ladder, as well as provide funding for simulation labs.
Other staffers suggested more distance-learning opportunities, outreach to nurses who have left the field and improved recruitment strategies.
The hospital has been hiring nurses from Canada and uses about 20 “traveling” nurses, at about twice the usual cost, to fill out its staff, which is still short 37 RNs.
Reached later, Chuck Idelson, a spokesman for the California Nurses Association, said the governor “is putting on a road show to try to pretend he is nurse-friendly, which he is not.”
He said the governor’s plan is minimalist at best and an attempt to distract attention from Schwarzenegger’s support of hospital closures, health insurance cutbacks and an end to safer staffing ratios.
He also said the statement that California will be short 47,000 nurses by 2010 is based on 5-year-old federal data, and the nursing shortage has turned around since ratios were set. “The ‘crisis’ is totally overblown,” Idelson said.
At the meeting, Enloe Chief Operating Officer Dan Neumeister hinted that it would be nice if the governor could do something about declining Medicare and MediCal reimbursements. “Where is the state’s broader vision regarding reimbursements to hospitals?” he asked.
Manuel Esteban, the former president of Chico State University who is on the hospital’s board, said it will be hard for universities to match hospital salaries, and he’s not sure how the Nursing Department could expand, especially if it can only do so for a short time. “Nursing is expensive [compared to other majors],” he said. “Where is the money going to come from?”
State university and community college budgets have faced cuts in recent years.
Butte College’s nursing school chair, Macy Kelly, said to tell the governor to bring it on. “We’re poised to have a much larger nursing program than we have right now,” she said. “We are ready.”