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Arizona colleges, hospitals enlisted to confront predicted shortage of nurses.

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Pima County doesn't have a shortage of nurses now, but health officials said that s likely to change as nurses become older and leave the work force.

Because 31.2 percent of Arizona's nurses are older than 55, getting nurses educated fast enough to make up for future retirements will be a challenge for the entire state, said Adda Alexander, executive vice president for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.

Details of a potential nursing shortage across the state were recently released by the association.

Three counties, Pima, Coconino and Yavapai, were singled out for exceeding the national average of 825 nurses per 100,000 population, while the rest of Arizona's counties are below that average.

Pima County has 978 nurses per 100,000 people while Santa Cruz County has 274 nurses per 100,000, a report said.

The average number of nurses in Arizona is 681 per 100,000 population, the association said.

To get past a nursing shortage, local and state organizations have been looking at ways to keep graduates in the state, encourage older workers not to retire and expand current nursing programs.

Alexander said they hope this new information will help organizations with those efforts while dealing with what she calls a looming crisis.

Arizona's hospitals and colleges and universities have been proactive about increasing the number of graduates, Alexander said.

According to the Arizona State Board of Nursing, Arizona programs graduated 2,364 nursing students in 2007 with Arizona hospitals donating $57 million over the past two years to nursing programs.

As part of a partnership with local hospitals, the University of Arizona created an 18-month fast-track program for people who already have a bachelor's degree.

Tucson Medical Center has also created a program in collaboration with Pima Community College that allows current employees to train as nurses at the hospital.

"Hospitals in Tucson have stepped up to the plate in helping with the costs," Alexander said.
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Publication:Community College Week
Date:Jul 14, 2008
Words:325
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