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Michigan Attacks Nursing Shortage

Monday July 14, 2008
<b>Jeanette Klemczak, RN, MSN</b>
Jeanette Klemczak, RN, MSN
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How does Michigan's report card look on nursing? The state gets high marks when it comes to the newly passed budget that allocates $5 million to the profession.

"In the troubled Michigan economy where big names like Ford announced a 15 percent decrease in its salaried workforce, government funding positions nursing strategically to address the shortage," says Jeanette Klemczak, RN, MSN, chief nurse executive, Michigan Department of Community Health in Lansing.

Thousands of nurses needed

In 2010, Michigan is expected to have a shortage of 7,000 RNs, and by 2050 the state will need 18,000 nurses, says Klemczak. This need might increase as the estimated 6,000 Canadian nurses and medical personnel who work mainly in the southeastern part of the state consider leaving the state. Economic factors such as the devaluation of the U.S. dollar and higher wages in Ontario might make working in Canada more attractive.

According to a May 15 article in the Oakland Business Review, the trend is contributing to the current shortage of an estimated 4,000 RNs. "The solution to the shortage is not to attract and retain Canadian nurses, but rather to train Michigan residents for the positions," says Klemczak.

Support for education

Much of the new monies will be earmarked for educating nursing faculty.

Nursing was front and center in Gov. Jennifer Granholm's 2007 State of the State message, which proclaimed that the Michigan Nursing Corp would provide rapid preparation of master's-level faculty, clinical instructors, and doctorally prepared nurses.

At a time of severe budget crunch, nursing received $1.5 million in 2008 funding, a vote of support from the Legislature.

In terms of workforce diversity, the state has acquired a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

"Until we address and support faculty with regard to recruitment and retention of students from diverse backgrounds, we won't see success in the nursing practice community," says Klemczak.

In 2006 and 2007, deans of nursing programs were asked to send two faculty members to diversity summits. These faculty members would then be charged with championing diversity at their institutions.

The diversity summits were a collaboration stemming from Michigan's strategic plan for nursing that included the Office of the Chief Nurse, Lansing Community College, and the Michigan State College of Nursing. The goal was to help faculty develop plans and give them tools to take back to their colleagues. As a follow-up, regional minigrants to increase diversity will be available to nursing schools around the state.

Diversifying the workforce

As of January 2008, 40 percent of the schools of nursing in the state had submitted plans to the Michigan Board of Nursing identifying ways they intended to increase diversity within their programs. Prior to the diversity summits, only 20 percent of schools reported they had plans in place.

"We're making progress with increasing diversity among nurses," says Klemczak. "We believe that it's comforting for patients to see nurses who look like them, and it is the responsibility of all nurses to be culturally aware and sensitive," she says.

Klemczak says the state is fortunate to have a governor who "gets it" about nursing. As the person who created the chief nurse executive position and has supported an investment of $30 million in accelerated nursing education models and the Nursing Corp, "Gov. Granholm deserves credit for visionary leadership," she says.

Lorraine Steefel, RN, MSN, CTN, is a senior staff writer for Nursing Spectrum. To comment, e-mail editorMW@nursingspectrum.com.