May 25-June 7, 2001
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IN THIS ISSUE
Paul E. Norris Jr. to head U.Va. police
More nurses coming, hospital will reopen beds
Nursing receives $1 million for McLeod expansion

Search committees for key posts named

Probing the mental wounds of ethnic conflict
Graduation festivities
Hot Links -- graduation special edition
Second Hot Links -- hospital centennial
Shenandoah Shakespeare Express coming to Charlottesville June 28
U.Va.'s 'Chicken Run'
In Memoriam
Memorial efforts for Meloy

caduceus More nurses coming, hospital will reopen beds

By Matt Kelly

The Medical Center may have turned the corner on the nursing shortage.

But the staffing problem is long-range, with the peak crisis projected to be around 2008, warned Pam Cipriano, chief clinical officer for the Health System. The Medical Center will need to rethink and redesign the workplace, as well as job duties and salaries.

The Board of Visitors Health Affairs Committee, which met May 10, reviewed plans for increased nurse staffing and the budgetary implications.

Cipriano said 60 new nurses have been hired, 20 of them coming from the University’s Nursing School. She told the board that there would be increased staffing costs for several months as the new nurses are brought into the system and overlap with the temporary and traveling nurses, whose contracts expire in the fall.

With the additional nurses, the Health System plans to reopen 23 beds by the end of May. Chief Financial Officer Larry Fitzgerald said this would mean an additional 65 patient visits per bed annually, bringing in an additional $800,000 per bed per year revenue. The hospital had closed 17 beds due to staffing shortages and 30 for construction.

Cipriano noted a fluidity in the nursing numbers, since while they are recruiting additional nurses, there is attrition as nurses leave the hospital.

The new nurses should eventually reduce the center’s dependence on overtime, temporary workers and traveling nurses, but Cipriano also stressed that steps had to be taken to retain nurses through higher pay and better benefits, improvements in the workplace, continuing education, advancement and other incentives. She noted that in surveys nurses have complained of feeling overwhelmed and overworked and of being verbally abused in the workplace.

While the Medical Centers is thought of as the best place to care for patients, it also needs to be thought of as a pleasing place to work, she said. The Health System is planning incentives, such as bonuses and programs to honor specific departments within the system.

Dr. Thomas Massaro, chief of staff of the Health System, said outside doctors who have been trying to direct patients to the hospital have become frustrated with the lack of available beds but he said he is beginning to see some turnaround. These doctors realize the hospital is working on the problem, he said. Pharmacies are being reorganized with 11 new pharmacists being hired, which allows medicine dispensing to go back to the treatment units.

Leonard W.Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer, cautioned the board that while the situation has improved, the administration should not be complacent. He said the nursing shortage has forced the Medical Center to “think outside the box, but the problem is not licked yet.”

Dr. Christopher Alexander, a public member of the Health Affairs Committee, advised the board to invest in other employees, such as housekeeping staff, since the nurses should not be spending their time performing those tasks.


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