By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
Going, going gone, are the days when one general family medicine practitioner could solve all or most of a patient’s health problems. As patient needs become more specialized, there is an increased need for specialized medicine. Except with the current financial crunch, the exact opposite is happening. Department closures have become a serious problem in the nursing industry. This leaves many nurses without jobs.
The combination of an economic downturn across the health care industry and a rising shortage of nurses, travel nurses and other health care providers, is leading some hospitals to close or downsize specialty departments. In interviews earlier this year, some CFOs at various Southern California hospitals told me about bed reductions in their facility’s sub-acute areas. Elsewhere in this country and over the border in Canada, hospitals are closing or reducing services in other specialty departments such as obstetrics, for similar financial reasons. Cutbacks and closures in hospitals are always a jarring reminder that even though human lives are at stake health care is a business just like any other.
This makes for a very interesting and somewhat contradictory situation for nurses and travel nursing jobs. On one hand, the nursing shortage (depending on which reports you follow) means that nurses and traveling nurses are needed to staff positions in all areas of hospitals, specialty departments included. On the other hand, the economic downturn and department cutbacks make it a strain for hospitals to hire and compensate those nurses. Travel nurses could be the difference in keeping hospitals viable and accessible to the people who need them the most. Contracting nurses for shorter assignments through travel nurse agency allows hospitals some staffing flexibility without any long term commitments or benefits. In other words, it just may be the best solution for hospitals to avoid closing or reducing department beds while testing the economic waters and attempting to ride out the storm.
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.