COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Longer waits in overcrowded emergency rooms, medication errors and a higher mortality rate could be coming to South Carolina as the state grapples with a severe nursing shortage.
A new report published by RegisteredNursing.org predicts the Palmetto State will have the 4th highest nursing shortage by 2030 based on the number of registered nurses it will need compared to the number it will have. The report found the state will need around 10,000 additional registered nurses over the next 12 years.
While nursing shortages have taken place over the last 30 years, Jeannette Andrews, the Dean of the USC College of Nursing, said the current shortage is different.
“Nursing has traditionally been in inpatient settings and hospital settings and now as care is being delivered more in the community and homes, there are more positions for registered nurses,” Andrews said. “We’re seeing more of those openings as well as an aging baby boomer population.”
More than 400 juniors and seniors take part in daily clinicals as part of the College of Nursing curriculum. To keep graduates practicing in the state, Andrews said several of the area hospital partnerships offer incentives to nursing students.
“Some of our hospitals are giving incentive pay or incentive bonuses for new graduates and some are in the midst of supporting students for scholarships during their student rotations here which would allow them to stay in their hospital setting after graduation.”
The university is also facing a shortage of nursing faculty. Andrews said she has lost more than a dozen faculty members recently, many to retirement, and is working to fill the voids.
“We’ve been hiring younger people and increasing salaries as well as having them practice once a week or so,” she said. “We need those educators in order to bring up the next generation of nurses and help fight this shortage.”
This fall will mark the first-ever class of nursing students at Columbia College.
Assata Kirkley is a freshman at Columbia College with dreams of becoming a nurse practitioner.
“When I was a kid I was sick a lot and I always appreciated how nice the nurses were to me so I have a passion for helping people,” Kirkley said.
Born and raised in South Carolina, Kirkley isn’t sure if she’ll remain in the Palmetto State after graduation, as national data shows nurses in South Carolina make around $10,000 less than the national average.
“I feel like if the pay was better that would help address problems like the shortage,” she said. “I also think a lot of people don’t understand that nursing is very stressful and they underestimate what it takes to be a nurse.”
Columbia College partners with Midlands Technical College allowing students such as Kirkley to spend two years taking pre-requisites for nursing. Then, students transfer to MTC for one calendar year to take part in clinical rotations and prepare for the NCLEX. Once they pass the NCLEX, students return to Columbia College to complete their Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Columbia College said most technical schools have a two-year waiting list due to lack of qualified faculty. During that time, students can take pre-Nursing courses and then spend two years taking their nursing courses and clinical rotation. Such students will end up with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN).
The college also offers an RN to BSN program that is completely online.
The report issued by RegisteredNursing.org estimates the number of registered nurses needed nationwide will increase by more than 28 percent by 2030.