Iowa’s nursing shortage is the focus of a roundtable discussion this afternoon in Iowa City, the first of five such public meetings statewide this week. Iowa Congressman Tom Latham is hosting the gatherings and says Iowa is dealing with an eight-percent shortage of nurses now, but it could grow into a 27% shortage if nothing is done to address the issue.
He says the forums will feature nurses, faculty and people involved in the health care industry. Latham, a Republican from Ames, says Iowa is currently short about 2,300 nurses but within ten years, we’ll be 9,000 nurses short. He says part of the problem is that there are several people interested in getting into nursing, but the educational system is failing to provide quality nurses.
Latham says nursing schools are full and they’re short on faculty because more nurses want to nurse, not teach. Nationwide, he says we’ll be about a million nurses short within a decade, just as the Baby Boom generation comes into serious health care needs.
Latham says plenty of qualified applicants want to go to nursing school, like at the University of Iowa, but two-thirds are being turned away due to a lack of space. Several Iowa hospitals are struggling with the state being the lowest-in-the-nation when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates. Latham says that translates to hospitals having to rethink their budgets with wages usually being one of the things trimmed back.
This afternoon’s hearing runs from 2 to 3 at the University of Iowa. Tomorrow’s hearing is in Fort Dodge at 1 P.M. Thursday, Latham will be in Mason City with stops Friday in Marshalltown and Boone.