Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Falk Announces Moves to Aid Nurse Shortages in Dane County

March 13, 2002
Topf Wells, 266-9069
County Executive

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, speaking from a health care training room at Madison Area Technical College, today announced an initiative to develop a new nurses career ladder, and other outreach efforts to help address the nursing shortage in Dane County. “Nurses are front and center in providing quality healthcare,” said Falk. “Nurses are needed throughout our community, in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted care facilities, clinics, home health, and in teaching the next generation of nurses. The nursing shortage affects our entire community, our quality of life.” Yet, she said, there are institutional, funding and attitudinal barriers to reaching a solution. Many nurses have left the profession and fewer young people are entering it, Falk said, citing the following:  A Wisconsin Health and Hospital Association survey last year found that, on average, state hospitals are 6% to 10% short of the RNs they need.  The average age of working Registered Nurses (RNs) nationally has increased 7.8 years since 1983 to age 45.2 today.  Nurses work an average of 8.5 weeks of overtime per year (an average 6.5 hours per week).  Recruitment and education initiatives are needed. But recruiting and training initiatives also require addressing system understaffing and improved working and patient care conditions. Falk said she has asked Jobs With a Future to work with local employers to develop a nursing career ladder. Dane County launched Jobs with a Future in 1996, working with over 40 local companies to provide training and job advancement opportunities to over 600 employees in the fields of health care, finance, insurance and manufacturing. Madison Area Technical College has provided the training, paid for by the companies in the partnership. The Health Care Partnership has until now focused on providing training to advance entry-level employees into phlebotomy (technicians who draw blood), and medical transcriptionist positions. Tracy Meek, director of Jobs with a Future (associated with the Center on Wisconsin Strategies at UW-Madison), said that MATC and UW-Madison, both of which operate nursing education programs, are supportive of the effort to begin a career-ladder nursing partnership. Registered Nurses vary in their educational preparation—some have an associate degree, while others have bachelor’s, masters’ doctorate or post-doctorate degrees. Meek announced receipt of a $50,000 grant from the local Workforce Development Board for an “Advancement and Retention for Incumbent Workers Project.” This project will review best practices and develop corporate programs that will help advance new recruits and current employees into more skilled positions within an organization. While it covers all JWF’s occupational areas, nursing will be included. “This spring, JWF will do occupational on-site interviews and focus groups to examine the barriers that prevent entry-level employees from moving up. For example, we’ll look at barriers that prevent moving from a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) to an RN, or a medical technician to an RN,” said Meek. “We will be recruiting employers -- hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, assisted living facilities and home health agencies from Dane County and surrounding counties to try to establish upward mobility projects,” said Meek. “Part of this will involve working with employers as partners to support training programs that, for instance, allow LPNs to continue their education and training toward an RN degree, or that promote RNs with an Associated Degree to attain their BSN. Employers who are interested in being part of the Healthcare Partnership nursing career ladder program are asked to contact Tracy Meek, JWF director, at (608) 265-9667 or This past December, JWF held a panel of nurses, nurse educators, and a union representative at Dane County Job Center to provide ideas on how to move forward. “We must have the input of nurses in solving this problem,” said Falk. She also said she hopes to find partners to help launch an initiative aimed at attracting former nurses back into their profession. Falk also used the opportunity to voice support for a “Creating Health Care Workforce Solutions,” statewide dialogue, sponsored by the Wisconsin Technical College System, to be held in Madison, April 29-30. Key decision-makers in health care are being invited to a “roll-up-your-sleeves” working session to produce specific solutions for health care work force challenges. # # #
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