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Nursing shortage brings new opportunities

Nursing shortage brings new opportunities

Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

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Spencer Steinbach found nursing as his second career. After years of working as a white water rafting guide and ranch hand, Steinbach decided to pursue a passion he found as a teenager. He received his EMT basic at 17-years-old and then enrolled into paramedic school.

"I got some great advice from my dad who worked in health care," he said. "He told me to shadow a nurse. I did and I found that I loved the amount of time they spent helping their patients."

Within a year he was in an accelerated bachelors of nursing program.

Steinbach is now the Patient Placement Manager at University of Utah Hospital. It's not the traditional nursing role that might come to mind, says Steinbach.

"When I tell people I'm a nurse, most people imagine scrubs and making rounds around the hospital floor," he said. "Instead I manage patient flow from day to day. That means my team coordinates the flow of all patients seen at the hospital each day."

During the last six years at the University of Utah he's had the opportunity to work as a registered nurse in the emergency department where he was able to apply his experience in the backcountry into his work in the critical care unit. From there he worked his way up to a nursing supervisor for the hospital.

As a nurse, Spencer has worked at various medical facilities in Utah, Colorado and California. But he says it's the culture at the U that keeps him passionate about his job. "The commitment to patients and team work between colleagues is amazing," he said. "Nursing has really paved the way of who I am and what I do."

For Melanie Wolcott, the last 15 years at the University of Utah have been an opportunity to grow and build a profession she looks forward to every morning.

"Each day I wake up and I'm excited to go to work. I love what I do," said Wolcott, an in vitro Fertilization nurse at the University's Center for Reproductive Medicine. "I feel so honored that I can make a difference for our patients everyday."

Wolcott began her career as a nurse in the surgical unit at the U. But along the way she found a passion for women's health. That led her to work in the labor and delivery unit. After several years of helping mothers give birth, she took an opportunity to advance her training to her current position as an IVF nurse.

"The best part of my job is when we are able to help people get pregnant. We have the opportunity to connect with our patients during their process," said Wolcott. "We are just as invested in a positive outcome as they are. And when our patient gets pregnant, we get so excited."

Steinbach and Wolcott are only two examples of the types of nurses you'll find at hospitals across the State of Utah. And, they also illustrate the potential each new and veteran nurse has to further their career in the current landscape of medicine. Whether you show up for a scheduled appointment or enter the hospital through the emergency department, nurses are the first and last medical staff you see at a hospital.

It is an unprecedented time in health care. The need for nurses is exceptional. As the needs of our patients around the Intermountain region continue to change and grow, hospitals across the region are recruiting new nurses to meet the needs of patient demands.

"There are a lot of new opportunities that we haven't had in the past," University of Utah Hospital's Chief Nursing Officer Margaret Pearce said. "Health systems like University of Utah Health Care are growing and we need to fulfill the demand for quality care."

The nursing shortage isn't just in Utah, it's a growing concern across the country. Nationally, it is estimated that one-third of the nursing workforce is planning to retire within the next five to 10 years, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Utah is ranked third in the country in severity of general nursing shortage.

With hospitals eagerly looking to hire compassionate and dedicated nurses, now is the time to be a nurse.

"The abundance of opportunity for new and young nurses is tremendous," said Pearce. "Healthcare is changing and on the brink of exciting new ways of care."

Brad Greenwell would agree with Pearce. He began his career with the U through a critical care internship. He currently works in six intensive care units including the emergency department at University Hospital.

"Being a nurse at the U brings me a lot of pride," he said. "You're the hands, tools and wrenches of what reaches the patients."

As a young nurse, Greenwell sees a future filled with possibility.

"The kind of care we provide in critical care nursing is fast-paced, and requires high demand for cutting-edge technology," said Greenwell. "I've been raised at the University. They've always had my goals in mind, including one day working as a nurse for AirMed. I take a lot of pride working at the University. It's a place that has a lot of integrity and the patients come first."

If you're debating on whether a career in the nursing is right for you, here are some words of wisdom from Pearce:

"You certainly need to care about people," she says. "Nursing is a very intense profession, but it is rewarding. It requires a good attitude and an open heart and mind."

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