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.
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Why Nurses Are Leaving
Sources: www.nurseweek.com (NurseWeek Web site), www.nursesource.org (Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow); Associated Press