August 7, 2001
Helping patients reclaim their lives can be emotionally, financially rewarding for rehab nurses
By Collin Johnson
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—In the midst of an ongoing nursing shortage, it’s no secret that a career in nursing is a long and hard road. Any nurse can tell you that. But what’s not so commonly known is how rewarding it can be—both emotionally and financially.
“Meeting a patient who has been through a catastrophic injury is a learning experience,” said Renee Richardson, a registered nurse and the nurse manager for the brain injury program at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson. “But when you see those patients recover and reclaim their lives and you know that you were a part of it, it’s just overwhelming. That family never forgets you.”
Richardson says the recent shortage makes for a long day as a manager trying to fill schedules to meet patient needs. “But from a nurses’ point of view, it could be very lucrative,” she said, alluding to incentives being offered by hospitals trying to make nursing more attractive to new recruits.
Richardson has worked in nursing since she was a student in 1984.
“I just kind of fell into it,” she recalled. “I found out about the nursing program at Hinds Community College. I knew I liked it immediately, but I didn’t know what I was getting into.”
What she got into was a very challenging, but rewarding job, she said.
In the U.S., more and more qualified nurses are finding other avenues due to long hours and low pay. According to a government survey, of the 2.7 million licensed registered nurses in the country, only 2.2 million were employed in nursing positions in 2000.
A study done by Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing in Nashville projects that the number of full-time registered nurses will peak around 2007 and then decline steadily as more nurses retire along with the baby boomer generation.
That’s compounded by dropping enrollment in nursing schools, said Kristi Sessions who works in the human resources department at Methodist Rehab.
“We work hard to attract good people,” said Sessions. “The shortage is all over the southeast and here in the Jackson area, we’ve got five hospitals competing for the same nursing pool. And that pool is getting smaller.”
One way hospitals fight the shortage is by making the more attractive and lucrative offers Richardson mentioned. “We keep adjusting pay and offering sign-on bonuses,” Sessions said. “We do whatever we can to encourage them to join our team and become part of our family.”
In fact, Methodist Rehab has begun international recruiting. “We’re looking in Canada right now and could start to look in other countries, too,” Sessions said.
“It seems to take us a little longer to fill positions now and like most hospitals, we’re always looking for dedicated and qualified people,” said Janice McGee, vice president of nursing at Methodist Rehab.
McGee, a 32-year veteran of the nursing profession, knows that it isn’t an easy job. There are long hours and not everyone is suited to care for others.
But there are advantages, McGee counters. Those same long hours can be very flexible and people with a genuine and sincere compassion to help others find a lot of satisfaction in nursing.
Others just need a change of pace, she added.
“I worked in intensive care units in hospitals for ten years,” McGee recalled. “And I burned out. I wanted experiences that included more than death and dying. That’s what led me to rehabilitation.
“Most of the patients here have already come through ICU’s and they’re looking for an improved quality of life,” McGee said. “Here, you’re working with a patient and family to help them get their life back.”
Richardson also explored other nursing avenues, but said she felt a calling to work in rehabilitation.
“Seeing patients survive catastrophic injuries and recover is so rewarding,” Richardson said. “Some nurses just want to give medication and leave. But I enjoy getting to know patients. By the time they leave here, there’s a strong relationship between patient, nurse, therapist and doctor, and you don’t get that at just any hospital.”
“This is where I always come back,” she added. “I feel like I’m working with family here.”
Anyone interested in a career in rehab nursing can call Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s human resources office at 1-800-223-6672 ext. 3553 for more information.