Posts Tagged ‘Geriatric psychiatry’

I Just Graduated in Nursing. Where’s My Job?

Monday, May 9th, 2011

This spring’s class of nursing school graduates are running into an unexpected roadblock.  The dream jobs that they thought would be waiting for them are hard to find.  According to Rhys Gibson, “I mean I thought I was the cat’s meow and everything, because I’m an African-American guy coming out of here – I was waiting for the red carpet, I had the grades, had the experience, to an extent but not the practical experience as a nurse working on the floor.  There isn’t a whole lot of money, even on my unit, I was lucky enough to make it in when I did because there hasn’t been another RN1 since and that was December ’09 when I got that job offer.”  Gibson has applied for hundreds of jobs and finally founded a job as a nurse on a geriatric psychiatry ward at Rush University Medical Center.  He is just one of thousands of people who entered nursing schools in Illinois in recent years, many in response to a drumbeat of news about a looming nurse shortage.

According to Cathy Grossi of the Illinois Hospital Association, “There’s been a concerted effort led by the Illinois Center for Nursing to expand the capacity of the educational programming across Illinois to accommodate student interest for nursing education. So we’ve increased capacity around the state about 25 percent.  That’s since 2006. But then the recession hit in 2007.  And while it’s officially been over since 2009, the effects have been deep and long-lasting, even in healthcare – one of the brighter growth areas of the economy.  We are now experiencing an increase in the number of graduates coupled with the time temporarily where there’s probably not as much opportunity as there was in the past.”  According to Grossi, nurse vacancies at Illinois hospitals fell by more than half from 2008 to 2010.

Although the nursing shortage has eased slightly for the time being, it is not going away. The recession brought a temporary reprieve because nurses who were close to retirement have seen their 401(k) portfolios decline.  As a result, they are postponing retirement a few more years until the economy — and their portfolios — recover.  Other nurses have seen their spouses or partners laid off and so have increased their hours to make ends.  Some who left the profession to care for children or for other reasons have started working again to pay the bills.  Additionally, many hospitals are not hiring.  The recession brought hiring freezes to healthcare facilities, and many are still in effect.  Help wanted ads for healthcare professionals dropped by 18,400 listings in July of 2010, even as the overall economy saw a modest increase of 139,200 in online job listings.

Even so, healthcare remains one of the economy’s healthiest industries. On April 1, 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the healthcare sector is growing, despite significant job losses in recent months in nearly all major industries.  Hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other ambulatory care settings added 37,000 new jobs in March 2011, the largest monthly increase recorded by any sector.  As the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, registered nurses will be recruited to fill many of these new positions.  The BLS confirms that 283,000 jobs have been added in the healthcare sector in the last 12 months.

The nursing shortage will regain momentum because of the impending baby boom retirement crisis.  When you consider that the majority of registered nurses are over the age of 55, and that they will soon be retiring as well, the terms ‘crisis’ and ‘nursing shortage’ will become even more significant in coming few years.  The nursing shortage is expected to also be influenced by the fact that nursing jobs will grow by 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the BLS.  Add in the fact that the nursing work force is aging and nursing schools aren’t graduating nearly enough nurses to fill the healthcare industry’s requirements, and the growing nursing shortage can be described as a “perfect storm”.

“Moving into the future, we see a very large shortage of nurses, about 300,000,” said Peter Buerhaus, a nurse and health-care economist and a professor at Vanderbilt University.  “That number does not account for the demand created by reform. That’s a knockout number. It knocks the system down.  It stops it.  I think the big story is…the future of nursing is dominated by aging baby-boomer nurses who are going to retire, and we are looking at massive shortages,” Buerhaus said.

Alzheimer’s Caregivers Are Under Stress

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Approximately 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly 14.9 million unpaid caregivers – usually family members – provide care to Alzheimer’s patients, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The report, 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, sheds more light on the toll the disease takes on not just patients but caregivers.  “Unpaid caregivers are primarily family members, but they also include other relatives and friends,” according to the report.  “In 2010, they provided 17 billion hours of unpaid care, a contribution to the nation valued at over $202 billion.”  Patients with Alzheimer’s live with the disease for an average of four to eight years after diagnosis.  Some live significantly longer, placing additional stress on the caregivers.

According to the association, that level of commitment carries a heavy personal cost. Sixty percent of caregivers are women and the majority are aged 55 and older.  Fully 61 percent of caregivers reported high levels of emotional stress; another 57 percent said that caring for an Alzheimer’s patient involved high physical stress.  The report spells out what those in the Alzheimer’s care community have known, says Elizabeth A. Crocco, MD, chief of geriatric psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.  “We’ve been preaching about this for a long time, that the numbers (with Alzheimer’s) are going to go up and the caregiver numbers have been under-reported,” she said.

Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers can welcome the news about research from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in which human embryonic stem cells are grown into basal forebrain cholinergic neurons, which can stem memory loss.  This breakthrough could lead to healthy replacement neurons being implanted in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients to improve their memory.  “This by itself is not going to cure the disease,” said Dr. Jack Kessler, Northwestern’s chairman of neurology.  “But eventually it can have a big impact on one of the biggest symptoms…the one that bothers people the most, memory loss.”  Huntington Potter, an Alzheimer’s researcher who has been doubtful that stem-cell therapy would work on this disease, called the study a “real breakthrough.  The only problem is that (replacing lost neurons) doesn’t attack the disease itself.”

Christopher Bissonnette, the study’s lead author, grew and tested millions of cells over a six-year period before finding the key to activate the precise gene sequence required to change stem cells into cholinergic neurons.  Bissonnette said he was motivated by his grandfather’s battle with Alzheimer’s.  “I watched the disease slowly and relentlessly destroy his memory and individuality, and I was powerless to help him,” he said.  “That drove me to become a scientist.”

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and – of the 10 leading causes – the only one that can’t be prevented, slowed or cured.