New initiative to cure nursing shortage

Members of Mississippi's health care community are proposing an initiative they hope will help cure the state's critical nursing shortage.

The "Saving Nurses Saves Lives" campaign sets goals that include recruiting and retaining qualified faculty to produce more nurses to meet the state's growing demand.

The state's nursing shortage is a result of a lack of qualified faculty at the schools, said Ricki Garrett, executive director of the Mississippi Nurses Association.

The state has an 8.7 percent faculty vacancy rate. The lack of instructors resulted in 2,300 qualified nursing school applicants being turned away from programs this year, said Marcella McKay, a vice president at the Mississippi Hospital Association.

"Because of retirements that are anticipated and heavy competition for the talent pool that makes up the nursing faculty, by the year 2009, we anticipate a 35 percent vacancy rate," said McKay. "Recognized national authors have actually referred to nursing faculty as an endangered species."

The hospital association and the Mississippi Nurses Association are recommending the state address the shortage by funding faculty salary increases and investing in other programs and projects to recruit and retain nurses.