As population ages, more nurses needed | Health

JASPER — Pickens County High School is a sprawling campus on the outskirts of Jasper, the largest town in the county. It’s located east of Interstate 75, roughly halfway between Atlanta and Chattanooga.

The buildings are modern and include dance studios as well as livestock barns, increasing the likelihood that students from across the area will find something to be passionate about.

The school offers another valuable resource to students, whether they aspire to careers in agriculture or the arts. Any of them can go see the school nurse.

Students in other schools may not be so lucky. Schools and other venues don’t always have nurses.

“It’s not news to anybody that there is a nursing shortage,” said Kimberly Parker, the nurse at Pickens County High School. “We need more nurses. We need educated, professional, committed nurses.”

Last year at this time, 73,330 Registered Nurses were practicing in Georgia, according to an official federal tally. Based on population size, that’s not nearly enough to fill the state’s needs. The Georgia Nurses Association says there could be a shortage of 50,000 RNs by 2030.

The current nursing shortage is one of the most significant to ever hit the state, and it continues to worsen.

According to the Georgia Nurses Association, more than 50 percent of the nursing work force is nearing retirement age. Meanwhile, the aging of the population as a whole means that more nurses and health professionals are needed to act as caregivers.

In the Northwest Georgia mountains, Blue Ridge Area Health Education Center is scrambling to relieve the nursing shortage.

Blue Ridge AHEC is a nonprofit regional health education center based in Rome, charged with increasing the supply, distribution and education of health professionals within the 20-county region it covers. Georgia is divided into six AHEC…

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