Nursing Shortage

Currently, there are about 1,500 vacancies for nurses in hospitals and nursing homes in Mississippi. According to projections and if nothing is done, that number could double or even triple within the next ten to twenty years.

Dusty Culpepper, a recruiter for Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center, said one of the factors leading to this is the fact that nurses these days have many more options.

"In the past we competed against our local market and local hospitals but now you compete against Jackson, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and New Orleans," Culpepper explains.

Locally, Culpepper says registered nurses can start off making about $35,000, which is about $10,000 more than the average starting salary in this area.

However, as the population grows older and more nurses sign up to work with agencies where they are paid significant amounts of money to travel and work, local hospital officials say it's still difficult to compete.

There are 21 accredited nursing schools in Mississippi, including a program at Meridian Community College. Despite a surplus of students now interested in the field, officials with the state nursing association say the problem is the lack of teachers.

In fact, they say about 25% of faculty members at the schools are now eligible for retirement. Many others are choosing careers directly with healthcare agencies, where they can make more money. Officials predict that the nursing shortage will likely not get much better any time soon.

"Economists say this thing is not going to get any better until 2010 or 2012. So, we still haven't peaked quite yet," says Culpepper.

To combat this problem, officials we spoke with from local hospitals say they are trying to recruit more nurses from this area. Although the shortage has not created a major problem here yet, Culpepper says if nothing is done, that could change. Extended Web Coverage


  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that through 2006, RN employment will grow by 23 percent, faster than average for all other occupations.

  • There have been fewer new graduates hired in the last four to five years. Without the new graduates, there are fewer nurses available to replace those that retire or that leave for other opportunities.

  • According to a study published in the journal Health Affairs, about a third of U.S. nurses under 30 reportedly plan to leave their jobs within the next year.

  • About half of the RN workforce will reach retirement age in the next 15 years.

  • The average age of new RN graduates is 31; they are entering the profession at an older age and will have fewer years to work than nurses traditionally have had.

  • There have been modifications in the care that is given, and a new push for competitive quality is increasing patient days, hours of nursing care, and recognition of the role of RN.

    Why Nurses Are Leaving

  • A University of Pennsylvania study said many hospital nurses are frustrated over staff shortages, patients loads and quality of care.

  • More than half of those surveyed say they had even been subjected to verbal abuse on the job.

  • More than two out of five scored high on a "burnout inventory'' used to measure emotional exhaustion and the extent to which they felt overwhelmed by their work.

  • The nurses blame rising patient loads and a shortage of nurses.

  • They also say there is a decline in the quality of patient care.

  • A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania said hospitals need to offer personnel policies and benefits comparable to those offered by other businesses.

    Sources: (NurseWeek Web site), (Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow); Associated Press