Impacts of Nursing Shortage in Lee County

Posted at 7:15 PM, Feb 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-03 09:00:25-05
LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Health care providers in Southwest Florida are finding ways to take care of patients despite the lack of nurses on staff.  The shortage of nurses is a hurdle hospitals are facing nationwide.
Director of nursing for the 5 star rated Always in Touch Home Health Organization, Holly Santiani spends many days treating patients in their home. A task fewer nurses are registered to provide.
"We do have a shortage of nurses here in Lee County. We do need more nurses for specialty areas such as home health," Santiani said. 
There are 12,000 nursing vacancies state wide according to a notice sent out by the Florida Center for Nursing. "We try to work around it, but I think it has been a problem for years and it’s getting worse because there’s more people moving down to Southwest Florida," said Santiani. 
Four in Your Corner’s Malcolm Johnson asked the Center how this impacts potential patients and whether patient care can suffer if more patients are coming in and less nurses can tend to them ? "Long term, yes, I think it could. Short term, in terms of days months, not so much," said a spokesperson with the Florida Center for Nursing.  
Santini says she can see some effects of the shortage currently. "Folks that are pushed out of the hospital too quickly don't get the care and the home health care that they need."
Factors adding to the shortage include Florida's large population and the age of its residents. Then, there’s the money. Florida statistically doesn't pay its registered nurses well. "We've never been on the high list of salaries when compared to other states. I'm afraid we're on the lower end," said Mary Lou Brunell with the Florida Center for Nursing.