Del. Facing Looming Nursing Shortage - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Facing Looming Nursing Shortage

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MILFORD, Del. (WBOC) - Hospitals and doctor's offices can't function without enough nurses. But Delaware is facing a looming nursing shortage.  

It's a nationwide program - not enough nurses to care for patients.

Delaware has almost 16,000 licensed registered nurses.

That is the current number. But some say it's not the present that's the issue. It's the future.

Heidi LeGates started her career as a nurse. Now she's director of patient care service.

She says the average age of a nurse in Delaware is mid-40s.

"When I first entered the profession 30 years ago, the average age was 27," she said. "Many people are now looking at retiring. We need to back fill that."

"The big thing down the road - 5, 7, 10, 15 years - I think we're going to notice a lack of healthcare professionals," said Bill Johnston, president of Wesley College. "We need to be prepared."

Schools in Delaware are working to avoid the looming shortage. Wesley College is opening a new health sciences building soon. Delaware Tech is starting a new sped-up degree program. And Beebe recently broke ground on an expansion of its nursing school.

And at Wesley nursing numbers are up.

"Our applications for nursing are significantly for the fall of 2014," said Johnston. "So, we are seeing already an increase in interest in that area."

LeGates says key to ensuring a looming shortage doesn't become an actual shortage is getting to kids early, showing them why nursing is a good career choice.

"I feel that we are able to meet the needs in the future and have nurses who are prepared to take care of the patients of the future," she said.

Delaware is also getting older by the day. The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services estimates Delaware with be the ninth oldest state in the country by 2030. That will certainly also increase the need for health care professionals in The First Sate.

A spokeswoman for the Division of Public Health says a shortage would create serious quality of care concerns, meaning failing to recruit enough new nurses is not an option.

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