Health department faces shortage of nurses

Nurses with the Mohave County Department of Health and Social Services are being taxed to provide services due to a staffing shortage.

Assistant director Jennifer McNally said her department has 10 registered nurses when fully staffed.

They include a nursing manager, one nursing supervisor and one public health nurse at each office in Kingman, Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City, and three nurses that handle grants programs.

However, there are openings now for the nursing manager, nursing supervisor in Lake Havasu and one nurse in the grants program.

In addition, a nursing supervisor will be needed in Kingman as of Monday.

"It's an unusual situation to have this many vacancies," McNally said.

"Part of the problem we have with any professional position in the health field is pay and attracting individuals to the area.

"We have some benefits nurses do not receive at a hospital like 8 a.m.

to 5 p.m.

workdays Monday through Friday and holidays off.

But there's a pretty big difference of what they can make (salary wise) at a hospital."

The health department budget for recruiting new nurses is limited, she said.

What is being done is obtaining lists of all registered nurses in Arizona and mailing brochures to their homes that describe the rural environment of Kingman as a good one in which to work, McNally said.

"The pay situation has been brought to the attention of the Mohave County Board of Supervisors and county manager," McNally said.

"But if pay scales were to be changed it would mean more than these nursing positions because different levels of nursing would be affected."

Nutritionists and sanitarians are others who would have to be included in any salary scale adjustments for nurses, she said.

A nationwide nursing shortage is being felt even in large cities, McNally said.

Some of those cities are in a financial position to offer to pay moving expenses for nurses and bonuses up to $5,000 to new hires.

But those are not options available here, she said.

"We're giving raises to our nurses as of Friday (today)," Kingman Regional Medical Center Associate Administrator of Patient Care Services Beverly Mracek said.

"These are the highest raises we've ever given nurses.

"It will ensure we're on a par with everyone else and perhaps a little higher than most."

The raises could be as much as seven percent in some cases.

About 250 nurses at KRMC are affected, Mracek said.

She declined to discuss pay ranges for nurses due to the competitive nature of the industry.

A registered nurse hired fresh out of college with no previous experience starts between $13.85 and $14.67 per hour for the health department, McNally said.

The variation in the figure permits for some negotiation, she said.

Health department nurses also receive health insurance, basic life insurance of $10,000, holidays off with pay, and participate in a paid time off program that enables them to take about three weeks off per year as combination vacation and sick time, McNally said.

McNally said all health department nurses presently are working more than 40 hours per week.

In response to a question about services being adversely affected at present, McNally said, "We're concentrating on services we're mandated to provide by state statutes.

Some services we may not be able to provide as fully as we'd like at present.

"For example, grants for HIV education is behind because we can not seem to attract an individual to the position.

It has been a number of months since we performed any HIV education duties."

Any nurse interested in a position with the Mohave County Department of Health and Social Services may contact the human resources department at 753-0736 for an application and job description.