Help Wanted: Nurses Needed in Washington Hospitals

Help Wanted: Nurses Needed in Washington Hospitals

Anne Pasicaran walks her son Riley to preschool at Sunnyside Christian School. Pasicaran, a registered nurse, is one of five nurses from the Phillipines recruited to work at Sunnyside Community Hospital. Hiring nurses from overseas is one way hospitals tr

Ross Courtney / Yakima Herald-Republic

January 21, 2009

SUNNYSIDE — It’s been seven years since Anne Pasicaran came to Sunnyside Community Hospital from the Philippines to help stem the nursing shortage.

She’s still here.

The registered nurse owns a big home on Sunnyside’s South Hill with her husband, Roy, an engineer. They have a son, Riley, who attends preschool. She and her husband became U.S. citizens in May.

“I think of here as home,” said Pasicaran, 31.

Today, she is one of five Filipina nurses at Sunnyside Community, helping to address a nursing shortage that’s getting worse.

Nurses are recruited from overseas. Local colleges crank out graduates, and hospitals even coax their own housekeepers to study nursing. But the shortage continues to plague hospitals here and elsewhere across the country.

Hospitals in Kittitas, Yakima and Klickitat counties need 98 registered nurses, according to a November report by the Health Workforce Institute in Seattle. That does not include clinics, school districts, jails and other places that hire nurses.

It’s the same number that was needed in 2004, even though some local nursing schools have doubled their enrollment and faculty since then.

Area hospitals pay starting hourly wages between $23 and $27 for registered nurses.

Most nurses are registered nurses, the largest single job description of the health care industry.

Meanwhile, the statewide vacancy rate rose from 6.2 to 8.7 percent between 2004 and last year, the institute reported.

It’s only going to grow worse. As the population ages, more people will seek more medical care while more nurses retire. The average age of registered nurses in the state is 48.

By 2020, the state will need 60,000 registered nurses but will have 30,000 to 40,000, according to a 2006 report by the Center for Health Workforce Studies of the University of Washington.

“We’re going to be as bad or worse off if we just do what we’re doing right now,” said Rhonda Taylor, the nursing program coordinator at Yakima Valley Community College.

The industry is trying every trick in the book, including looking overseas.

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