Johnson City

More than 100 nurses hired by local health system

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) is hiring nurses after months of uncertainty. The health system laid off 116 corporate employees in January.

"Just five months ago we were making cuts in order to adapt to some pretty significant cuts that we were seeing in reimbursements from the federal government, from other payers, and also in response to decreasing volumes that we were seeing," said Teresa Hicks, the spokesperson for MSHA. 

They've now added more than 100 nurses to their hospital staff over the last two months and have another 160 health care positions waiting to be filled.

MSHA told us they've made financial adjustments and are treating more patients.

"If it were just one month or two months of increased volume, we might be a little less likely to make those hiring decisions but when you start to see four months of increased volume, that starts to look like a trend," said Hicks.

The Tennessee Nurses Association's District 5 President, Teresa Martin, told us more patients are seeking care because more have insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The District 5 region covers Northeast Tennessee.

We're told even without more patients seeking care, the demand for nurses would still go up.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a million nurses will be needed in the next eight years to fill new jobs and replace nurses retiring. The Registered Nursing workforce is also expected to grow by more than 500,000 nurses by 2022, faster than the average of all other occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Baby Boomers are aging into Medicare in the numbers of 2-3 million a year for the next 30 years, which increases the need for Registered Nurses as well as Advanced Practical Nurses," said Martin.

Wellmont Health System's Chief Operating Officer Tracey Moffatt was a bedside nurse for 10 years. She told us there are more opportunities for nurses than ever before.

"There's more and more of a demand for nurses in home care and outpatient settings and even beyond that more and more demand for nurses to help coordinate that care," Moffatt said.

She told us the number one industry demand is still bedside nurses.

"Generally in the in-patient setting on a traditional medical-surgical unit you'll see a nurse on a day shift have four to five patients typically and in a critical care setting you see it as low as a one-to-one ratio," said Moffatt.

She told us Wellmont has invested more than three million dollars over the past few years to add more bedside positions in their hospitals.

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