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Oklahoma faces nursing shortage as many reach retirement age

Posted at 6:11 PM, Jan 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-03 19:20:44-05

TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma is in need of more nurses, according to a report by the Governor's Council for Workforce and Economic Development.

It shows that the ratio of registered nurses (RN) per population in the state at 700 RNs per 100,000 people is below the national average of 1,150 per 100,000.

There are several reasons for the nursing shortage, including the growing aging population that will need healthcare assistance and an increase of nurses expected to retire.

According to the Oklahoma Board of Nursing, about 38 percent of RNs are age 50 and older.

"We're finding that as nurses begin to retire that we're not being able to fill those slots as quickly as they're retiring," said Angela Sivadon, the Dean of Tulsa Community College's School of Nursing.

She says the answer to the shortage lies in education.

"We need to be able to educate more nurses to get them into the field, and one of those ways is to be able to admit more students cause we're at capacity right now," Sivadon said.

One way TCC is making changes to attract more students is partnering with local hospitals to provide scholarship opportunities. It's also starting an online application program to make it easier for students to apply.

In addition, it will start admitting a nursing class every semester the spring of 2020.

"The answer to that shortage is to educate more nurses, and if we can't get the educators to educate them, we can't make that cycle complete," Sivadon said.

She says pay isn't a good motivator for nurses in the field to come back to the classroom, making it hard to expand faculty.

"Starting pay in academia is about $50,000," she said.

The average salary for an RN in the U.S. is $70,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Despite this need for more educators, Dean Sivadon says they are steady with the number of faculty they have and number of applicants interested in the nursing field. The last graduating nursing class at TCC was 133 in December 2018.

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