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OR Nurses: Code Red for the Future?

by Kelly Maybury, Contributing Editor

As discussed in the Feb. 5 edition of Tuesday Briefing, staffing shortages and high turnover rates in nursing are an increasing concern among healthcare professionals, and are increasingly on the minds of American consumers as the need for medical and nursing home care escalates. A Gallup survey of operating room directors presented a mixed picture. The good news: operating rooms do not currently suffer from nursing shortages. The bad news: there are indications that they may face shortages in the near future.

The fall 2000 survey* revealed that turnover appears to be a minor issue in the nation's ORs with 29% of OR directors saying there had been no turnover in their permanent nursing staffs in the past 12 months. Fifty percent (50%) reported that three or fewer nurses have left their hospital, and 21% indicated four or more. The average turnover was 2.42 nurses. When compared to the average number of nursing positions reported, this indicates a turnover rate of less than 12%.

Although operating room directors nationwide indicated that ORs are not being affected by the nationwide nursing shortage, they are concerned that the decreasing number of nursing school graduates and aging of the nurse workforce may create a future shortage. More than half (51%) of the directors reported that their biggest concern for the future is a lack of qualified nurses. The survey also confirmed that the OR nursing workforce is aging -- the highest percentage of OR nurses (37%) are between ages 41 and 50, and more than 14% are above the age of 50.

*The survey results are based on 401 telephone interviews with a national sample of OR directors, conducted October-November 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the sampling error is +/- 5%.


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