Nursing Field Sees Some Shortages in Alaska
Specialized areas are where nurses are needed
ANCHORAGE - In the past decade, more than 11,000 health care jobs have been created in Alaska. But one of the most important areas, nursing, is still seeing a shortage.
It's not entry-level positions where there are gaps, it's the specialized areas like the operating room.
There are plenty of qualified Alaskans ready to take entry-level positions in nursing.
"The estimated need for nurses in the state is 130 nurses per year, and we are putting out about 200 graduates a year," said Barbara Berner, director of UAA’s School of Nursing.
For students finishing their undergraduate degree the job market is tight.
“We are also hearing from the institutions that they are no longer requiring as many traveling nurses from out of state to do basic nursing care,” Berner said.
But this does not apply to specialty nurses – especially those working in areas like the operating theater and intensive care unit.
"They take at least two years of previous experience, and we prefer acute care," said Tammy Kaminski, of Alaska Regional Hospital’s human resources department.
Across the state, including at Alaska Regional Hospital, experienced specialty nurses are in short supply, and it's necessary to draw people up from the Lower 48, which doesn't always work out.
"I would say for every 10 nurses we recruit from out of state we are able to keep one," Kaminski said.
Students who are finishing specialized graduate programs are getting picked up much more quickly.
“People with particular specialties often have jobs before they even leave the graduate program because there is such a need in the state," said Berner.
And to help ease the shortage of operating room nurses, a cross-training program is being piloted in Anchorage.
“We take nurses who have a couple years of nursing experience, who are eager to go into perioperative nursing settings and we pair them up with a preceptor one on one to go through the program; in the end they are trained to be perioperative nursing nurses," said Kaminski.
It's hoped innovative training like this will mean hospitals and other facilities can retain the qualified nurses they have and continue to hire from in the state.
This Friday there is a health care career fair being held at University Center Mall on the Old Seward Highway.