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Kali Hughey practices giving shots at Meridian Technology Center. The nursing program at MTC has more applicants than available positions in the program.

The United States is in the middle of a nursing shortage that is affecting hospitals across the country, including Stillwater Medical Center.

Although the hospital is not experiencing a crisis, it is struggling to find experienced nurses, said Shellee Beatty, SMC’s human resources coordinator.

“We are growing and bettering ourselves and needing more experienced nurses,” Beatty said of the hospital’s additional programs that require master’s-prepared nurses.

The hospital has been experiencing a shortage for a few years, Beatty said, adding this year is more difficult because the need is higher.

To combat the problem, Beatty said the hospital is offering a scholarship that is open to the public, not just hospital staff, in which the hospital pays up to $8,000 to attend nursing school.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the nurse shortage is expected to intensify as Baby Boomers age and the need for health care grows.

Compounding the problem is nursing schools and colleges across the country are struggling to expand enrollment to meet the rising demands for nursing care, according to the association’s Web site.

At Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater, there is a maximum number of students its nursing school can hold. The school recently accepted 14 students of the more than 60 who applied for the fall, said Rena Hines, director of the center’s short-term programs.

That brings the total number of students enrolled in the nursing program to 44 for the start of fall classes.

Though there is a shortage of nurses, Hines said there has not been a decrease in the number of people who apply for the nursing program at MTC.

Hines said, however, limiting the number of students accepted into the program might be affecting the number of nurses in the workforce.

The problem at Northern Oklahoma College’s nursing school is a lack of educators, Beatty said. While the school has doubled the number of students who are accepted each year, it is not able to admit all who apply, she said.

To aid the nursing school, Beatty said SMC also helps pay for NOC instructors.

According to a report released by the American Hospital Association in April, U.S. hospitals need approximately 118,000 registered nurses to fill vacant positions.

Perry Memorial Hospital has never been able to fill all open nursing positions due to the shortage, hospital spokesperson Shellie Seabolt said.

The hospital doesn’t see a quick turnaround in the nursing shortage either, hospital CEO Joe Duerr said.

The hospital blames the shortage on the fact nursing programs are limited in their capacity for training and many nurses are choosing careers outside hospitals, Seabolt said.

Perry’s hospital has one night RN position, one day LPN position and one night nurse aide position available, Seabolt said, adding the hospital continues to look for ways to attract nurses and other health care professionals.

There are more than 15 RN and LPN positions available at SMC, according to the hospital’s Web site. For information, or to apply for the SMC Health Care Scholarship, visit .

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