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Out-of-State Nurses Key to Rural OR Health

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Oregon relies on nurses from other states for its health-care system, particularly in rural areas. If the numbers of those nurses start to fall, a new report says it would hurt rural communities in the state the most.

A new report finds Oregon’s health-care system is vulnerable to shortages if trends change in the field of nursing. The Oregon Center for Nursing compared people in the profession who are licensed through examinations versus those who receive endorsements. Nurses licensed by exam typically are from within the state, whereas nurses with endorsed licenses come from out-of-state. The number of endorsed nurses has risen significantly in recent years. Jana Bitton, who heads the Oregon Center for Nursing, says the trend will have to continue to support some parts of the state’s health-care system.

 “If there are endorsing nurses who don’t migrate into the state at the same rate that they have been migrating in before, that means that there is going to be an increase in shortages in some of those areas that are in our rural parts of the state, and also places that are outside of a hospital,” said Bitton.

Bitton notes this analysis uses data from before the pandemic, and it’s not yet clear how COVID-19 has affected these trends. She says a nursing shortage would mean longer waits to access care and delaying or canceling elective surgeries.

Bitton says it’s important to find ways to encourage out-of-state nurses to stay in Oregon.

“That involves having communities working together in partnership with their governments, with their hospitals, with their schools and just everyone in the community to band together, work collaboratively, to make sure that we have the nursing workforce and the health-care system that we need,” said Bitton.

She says increasing access to education also is important and something her organization has worked on. She says the state and communities need to ensure there’s enough faculty at nursing schools, as well as enough training and learning opportunities to accommodate students.

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