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How are Georgia hospitals addressing the nursing shortage?

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Nurses play a critical role in patient care. But for many hospitals, these professionals are in high demand and short supply. This is particularly true in states such as Georgia, according to nurse.org.

One reason for the shortage is that many nurses are reaching retirement age and they aren't necessarily being replaced quickly enough by younger nurses. In addition, the population is aging and, as a result, more health care is needed generally.

» RELATED: What the nursing shortage means for healthcare

"I would love to hire 200 nurses today," Sharon Pappas, chief nurse executive at Emory Healthcare, said. At Emory, vacancies exist because as the hospital system has grown, so has demand for nurses.

Northside Hospital in Atlanta has also experienced a consistent need to fill nursing vacancies. "Nurse staffing is a bit of a challenge right now," Kelly Piccininni, talent acquisition manager at Northside, wrote in an email. "The Baby Boomer population is aging and requiring more health care services – orthopedics, cardiology, pulmonary. Northside has a need for more inpatient nurses to care for these patients."

In order to recruit nurses, Northside works with local schools to get to know nurses before they graduate. They're also reaching out to prospective candidates through social media and digital recruiting.

"For example, Northside is partnering with ChooseATL, an online recruiting initiative of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, to attract millennials to the health care industry in general and to Northside in particular," Piccininni noted. The hospital also reaches out to nurses who have been affected by layoffs and works with out-of-state partners to recruit nurses from states where there are more nurses than jobs.

» RELATED: The great nursing shortage: Which states are hit hardest and what's being done to help?

Making sure that the work environment is attractive to nurses also helps with recruiting at Emory. For example, Pappas said, the hospital considers whether their nurses work too many hours and if they have the appropriate support to help them do their best work. This also benefits patient care.

Emory has taken a closer look at its nursing pipeline and, in addition to having its own nursing school, it has established partnerships with other schools. The hospital system has also expanded its nurse residency program. "We have a year-long nurse residency and we think it's an important step for nurses to transition into active practice," Pappas said.

» RELATED: 5 of the biggest issues nurses face today

Ultimately, Emory strives to maintain a healthy nursing culture. Each year, nurses are surveyed so the results can be used to improve their work environment. Emory has been recognized as a magnet hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program. Although it takes hard work and requires meeting specific criteria, achieving the magnet designation is worthwhile, according to Pappas. In addition to helping the hospital improve, it helps attract nurses who place a priority on working at a magnet hospital.

"It's kind of a national brand that nurses see and recognize," she said.

Local initiatives are also being implemented to help alleviate the nursing shortage. For example, Mercer University is offering an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing at their Georgia Baptist College of Nursing in Atlanta. The program allows students who have a non-nursing bachelor's degree to earn a BSN in as few as 12 months.

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