Nurse shortage not for lack of applicants

News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- With Georgia's population expanding and the number of public health nurses shrinking, we're seeing a growing problem in health care.

"Everybody was fussing 'cause of the wait times, but we were trying to do the best we could with what we had," said Richmond County Health Department Nurse Purity Cummings.

With the back-to-school rush and flu season creeping in, demand for nurses is high, but the number of nurses providing care is low.

"They're stretched very thin back there," said Richmond County Nurse Manager Carol Bryant.

"With the advances in medicine, you don't have the amount of nurses that you need to meet the demand that there is," Cummings said.

People with chronic diseases are living longer, babies born too early are surviving and baby boomers are finally retiring -- all things that should be good news.

With GHSU in our backyard, Bryant says new nurse applicants aren't the problem.

"Low pay, budget cuts and low pay with the state of Georgia. The state of Georgia has not given a raise to our employees in like six years. If we don't start getting raises for these nurses, I'm afraid they're not going to stay," Bryant said.

Cummings works in the teen clinic. With Richmond County's high teen pregnancy rate, her department is in high demand.

"It can get overwhelming at times. Right now we have two full-time nurses and two part-time nurses, so another full-time nurse would be great," Cummings said.

"Most of the nurses here will have two jobs, and some of the nurses here will have three jobs," Bryant said.

These nurses say they're relying on their love of the job to get them through.

"Nobody goes into nursing for the money," Bryant said.

"On some days you may feel like, 'Oh I don't get paid enough to do all of this,' but at the end of the day, you have to realize that you're helping someone and that's what nursing is about," Cummings said.

Bryant says even though there are plenty of people that want to be nurses, there aren't job openings because most public clinics aren't hiring in this economy.

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