Article Content

Although attention is often focused on the nursing shortage in California, Florida, and New York, other states, like Idaho and Washington, in the northwestern United States, are also struggling.


In January 2006, the Idaho Nursing Workforce Center released its preliminary report, The Acute Care Nursing Workforce in Idaho: Results of a Survey of Idaho Hospitals, Fall 2005. Twenty-four of this state's 42 hospitals are rural, with 25 or fewer beds. All of these have a "Critical Access Hospital" designation. As with such hospitals in other states, they are Medicare certified, located more than a 35-mile drive from any other hospital (15 miles for secondary roads or mountain areas), or certified by the state as being a necessary provider of health care services to residents in the area. They must provide 24-hour emergency care, and usually have not more than 25 beds for acute, inpatient care, for an average length of stay no longer than 96 hours. These rural hospitals in Idaho have a higher proportion of nurses in their 40s and over 60. They have fewer bachelor's degree-prepared nurses than the metro areas, and it takes 16 weeks to fill a position with a new graduate, 27 weeks for a management position.


In Washington State, the WWAMI Center for Health Workforce Studies released results of its 2005 survey of nonfederal, acute care hospitals. WWAMI is a partnership between the University of Washington School of Medicine and the states of Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. It found, despite a drop in the 2005 staff nurse vacancy rate to 6% from 10% in 2001 that it takes more nurses to fill the positions. Demand for nurses increased by 41% between 2001 and 2005. Eighty-six percent of responding hospitals in the Washington State survey said it was somewhat or very difficult to recruit staff RNs, 87% for nurse managers and clinical directors. In Tacoma and Pierce counties, 100% of the hospitals said it was very difficult to recruit staff RNs, and Benton and Franklin counties said the same for advance practice nurses.


Diversity is a hot topic in nursing and health care. Why is it so important? A December 2001 Issue Bulletin from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) says that "according to an April 2000 report prepared by the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice, a culturally diverse nursing workforce is essential to meeting the health care needs of the nation's population. Despite their small numbers, minority nurses are significant contributors to the provision of health care services in this country and leaders in the development of models of care that address the unique needs of minority populations."


Since this report was issued, however, the percentage of minorities in nursing has actually gotten worse, and their percentage in the general population has increased. The National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses (NSSRN), published every four years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, tracks the gender and racial and ethnic background of nurses. The following chart compares the NSSRN figures on RNs from 2000 with the preliminary findings from 2004 and the U.S. general population.


Why don't more minorities become nurses? "Studies point to many reasons why men and minority group members do not pursue nursing: role stereotypes, economic barriers, few mentors, gender biases, lack of direction from early authority figures, misunderstanding about the practice of nursing, and increased opportunities in other fields," says the AACN Issue Bulletin. "Compounding the lack of student diversity, and further impacting minority recruitment efforts, is the fact that nursing school deans and faculty also comprise a gender-skewed, racially homogenous group."

TABLE. No caption av... - Click to enlarge in new windowTABLE. No caption available

Your Guide to Job Opportunities in the Mountain and Northwestern States

Aspen Valley Hospital


0401 Castle Creek Rd.


Aspen, CO 81611


(970) 544-1361


Fax: (970) 544-1552




Web site:


Poudre Valley Health System


Contact: Human Resources


(970) 495-7800


Web site:


Southwest Washington Medical Center


Contact: Theresa Mazzaro and Gayle


Bourns, Nurse Recruiters


(800) 842-3099


Web site:


St. Mary's Hospital


2635 North 7th Street


Grand Junction, CO 81501


Contact: Human Resources


(800) 458-3888


Fax: (970) 244-7194




Web site:


Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center


3186 S. Maryland Parkway


Las Vegas, NV 89109


(702) 731-8898


Fax: (702) 836-3813


Web site:


Tucson Medical Center


5301 E. Grant Rd.


Tucson, AZ 85712


Contact: Bruce Megenhardt


(800) 526-5353, ext. 41543


Fax: (520) 324-5277




Web site:


Banner Health Western Region


(888) 547-9746


Web site:


Diversity: Your Guide to Job Opportunities

Duke University Health System


Raleigh/Durham/North Carolina


(800) BE-A-NURS (800-232-6877)


Fax: (919) 681-7397


Web site: