Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Lobo The Independent Voice of UNM since 1895
Latest Issue
Read our print edition on Issuu

Legislators hold answer to shortage

Nurse says problem is getting worse

Registered nurse Maria Scarpelli said the current situation for nurses at University of New Mexico Hospital is getting worse.

"Nurses are leaving the field because of working conditions, and working conditions are greatly impacted by the fact that we don't have enough nurses," said Scarpelli, who works at UNM Hospital and is a nursing union chapter president. "Many days, I'm at the hospital for eight or nine hours before I get a break. Not getting a break and being able to take care of yourself makes it difficult to care for other patients."

New Mexico's nursing shortage, caused largely in part by decreased enrollment in educational programs, poor faculty retention due in part to low pay and an aging work force, has prompted the College of Nursing to ask for more legislative funding to expand the program.

Sandra Ferketich, dean of UNM's College of Nursing, said the general appropriations bill, or House Bill 2, holds one solution to the problem. The bill that the House of Representatives recently approved allocated funds to expand the nursing program to offer the two nursing program prerequisite courses in the summer so more people can enter the college.

A different appropriations bill is being debated on the Senate floor. If the two bills are passed in different forms, House and Senate members will hash out their differences in conference committees and forward the appropriations bill for all state institutions to the governor.

Scarpelli said additional funding for UNM's College of Nursing expansion is vital to help alleviate the nursing shortage. She said, however, that even if extra money were allocated to the nursing college, problems will still need to be addressed.

She said the college needs to attract people to the nursing field and get students through the program. Scarpelli added that funding is a good step toward fixing a problem that is expected to only get worse.

Scarpelli said lack of resources, increased litigation over the years, low pay and poor working conditions keep retention and recruitment extremely difficult, adding to an already stressed situation.

She added that nursing has also become a highly technical field, adding to low recruitment numbers.

"Nursing is difficult," Scarpelli said. "It's more than just emptying bed pans."

She said another big problem is that the administrative pool of nurses tends to forget that the people who are involved with patient care on a day-to-day basis have valuable input and should be involved with the process.

Ferketich echoed many of Scarpelli's concerns.

Enjoy what you're reading?
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox

She said the pre-requisite courses have not been offered previous summers because the Legislature doesn't give the college enough money to pay for course expenses during summer school. She said summer courses would address the need for a higher level of students entering the nursing college.

Ferketich said the college also asked for a 33 percent increase to expand the entering class level in the basic four-year program from 32 students to 48 students each semester.

"That means more students will graduate from the program and move into the New Mexico job market," she said.

Ferketich said the college requested a 30 percent increase in graduate student recruitment. She said the nursing college has to increase graduate programs because in order to expand all other programs, the college must have more teachers - which the graduate students provide.

Ferketich said another request is for longer contracts because the nursing faculty is currently on a nine-month contract also, but needs to be on a 12-month contract. She said the nursing college is the only Health Sciences Department whose faculty are not on a 12-month contract, which is hurting the college.

She said that putting faculty on a longer contract would enable the college to run programs the entire year, thus moving more people into the job market.

The last part of the College of Nursing's budget request is to put the nursing college faculty salaries on par with professional salaries outside UNM. Ferketich said her faculty is being paid $15,000 to $20,000 less per year than their clinical counterparts.

"My faculty can walk out and go to any of the hospitals and earn more," she said. "We must have a market adjustment so my faculty are paid an equitable salary with the market in Albuquerque."

Ferketich said the next step to addressing the nursing shortage is to form a partnership with the nurses at University Hospital and promote preparation levels of nurses that meet the high intensity care needs of hospital patients.

"The hospital has a very innovative system for career development to help people become educated at both the masters and baccalaureate levels," she said. "This helps the part of the shortage that is for more qualified nurses."

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Daily Lobo