She expects to see the shortage return once the economy picks up. An aging baby boomer generation may also bring the shortage back to her area.
"It wasn't for an economic reason that we did it. It wasn't because it was politically the correct thing to do. It wasn't based on what if we can't find them," White says. "We believe that no matter how many nurses we have, even if there comes a point in time down the road where there will be fewer nurses in the workforce, that doesn't detract from the studies that have been done that show whatever nurses you have you would want them to be as highly educated as possible in order to provide the highest level of care to your patients. This is something we felt was the right thing to do, the right thing for our patients, and we were going to do it."
If North Shore-LIJ hires non-baccalaureate nurses, it will provide tuition reimbursement and requires those nurses to obtain their baccalaureate within five years.
The requirement goes into effect on September 1. Existing staff are grandfathered in and exempt. White says that the system has more than 460 nurses enrolled in baccalaureate programs and another 200 or so are enrolled in master's degree programs. "We have for years had a very good tuition reimbursement program in which we've encouraged our nurses to go back to school to achieve their baccalaureate, if not master's and doctoral degrees. We have put a tremendous amount of money and effort into advanced education even prior to this new policy change," says White.
I hope North Shore-LIJ will inspire other systems that have the resources to support nurses through further education to follow suit. We know that healthcare delivery will only become more complicated and will need an ever more educated workforce to provide it. It's time for nurses to keep up.