Nursing Shortage Hits Home in Northeast Wisconsin

GREEN BAY, Wis. – This week is National Nursing Week. 

The week was created to celebrate the occupation, but that celebration is being over-shadowed by a shortage of nurses. 

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development says the state will need to fill more than 5,300 nursing positions in the next six years. 

Allison Lomax didn’t always want to be a nurse.

“I wanted to be a doctor,” Lomax says.

But here she is, awaiting graduation Saturday.

She already has a nursing position waiting for her, but the road to get there wasn’t easy.

“I did apply for the nursing program at Madison, it’s about a 40 percent acceptance rate,” says Lomax. “I got wait-listed and I didn’t want to wait, I wanted to go into the field, so I started looking at other options.”

Lomax was a part of the 50-80 percent of students who aren’t accepted into a UW system nursing program.

That’s why Bellin College became an option for Lomax.

“The unique thing about us here at the college is that they are a direct admit, there is no waiting,” says Bellin College president Connie Boerst. “They are entered into the nursing program immediately, so it’s a real plus. We get them in right away and we get them out and back into the workforce much quicker.”

Hospitals are aware of the shortage.

Half of the nurses in the United States are 50 or older and plan to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.

Baby boomers are getting older and will need medical attention which means they need more nurses.

But there are ways they can entice more people to join the field.

“As individuals join our organization we look and offer tuition reimbursement,” says chief nursing officer for Bellin Hospital Laura Hieb. “We have many folks who may start off in a nursing assistant type of role and they aspire to be a nurse and so within the organization we would support that through tuition reimbursement.”

Though the statistics may be disparaging, there is hope.

“I know a lot of people are learning more about nursing now than when I was in high school,” says Lomax. “A lot of people are going into nursing programs now which I think is awesome and I think we just need more promotion for the field of nursing.”

Bellin College is holding its graduation Saturday. 

102 students will be receiving their diploma.

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