Valdosta - Elizabeth Hingley is going to school to become a nurse. "I'm a diabetic and I have a passion to work with diabetic children," she says.
But with a nursing shortage state wide, she's one of the few and hospitals are projecting the shortage will get worse in the near future. "The average age for nurses now is about 45.7 years. And a lot of people are at the age of retirement," says Sarah Register, the Chief Nursing Officer at Smith Northview Hospital.
In fact, they expect 55% of the nursing population to retire in the next few years, which threatens to undermine health care for the aging population. "Unfortunately the largest population of elderly people is fixing to hit our country at the same time the least number of nurses are available," says Chuck Roberts, the Assistant Administrator for Support Services at the hospital.
With those nurses gone, studies project the shortage would grow to around one million nurses nationwide by the year 2020. "The point is do you want to be the one in the hospital bed when the shortage hits," he adds.
So hospitals in Valdosta are doing all they can to recruit and retain nurses now to combat any shortage later. "We do benefits, retirement plans and a lot of flexible scheduling so it fits in with their home life," Register says.
And invite all, regardless of age, to join what they say is the most rewarding field you can peruse. "You get to see the care that you provide your patients and how that affects them and their families," Hingley says.
In hopes that they'll be ready for the South Georgian that will rely on their care.
To help recruit more nurses the state is creating a second degree, 15 month accelerated nursing program and is offering money to create more nursing programs at more Universities, including Albany State and Valdosta State University.