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July 30, 2014

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Nevada continues to rank poorly in numbers of doctors, nurses

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Steve Marcus

Nurse Terrie Young, originally of the Philippines, visits with “standardized patient” Nannette Mears during a UNLV nurses training program Friday at Spring Valley Hospital, “Speak for Success” is a research-based program for nurses who speak English as a second language.

The chronic shortage of doctors that afflicts Nevadans may grow worse, lawmakers were warned Wednesday.

A group of health care experts reviewed the state's longstanding deficiency in providing an adequate health care workforce for Nevada's residents at a legislative committee, providing fresh data showing that Nevada still ranks poorly among states for the number of doctors and nurses it counts among its population.

That shortage of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals isn't going away anytime soon, experts say. Instead, it could actually be getting worse.

The advent of President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act both mandates and provides subsidies for people to get health insurance, and with hundreds of thousands of Nevadans predicted to get insurance, there's even more pressure on the health care system to have enough professionals to see patients like you.

How bad is the problem?

For one, the health care workforce isn’t growing. And health care workers are getting older and closer to retirement, according to experts who delivered presentations to the legislative health care committee.

“We’re just treading water,” said Gerald Ackerman with the University of Nevada School of Medicine. “There are severe health workforce shortages.”

These are longstanding problems.

How longstanding?

Another set of legislators examined the shortage of nurses in Nevada — in 1989.

Here’s where Nevada’s health care workforce ranks compared with other states on the basis of the number of physicians per 100,000 state residents. Washington, D.C., is included in the rankings.

General and family practitioners: 46th

Pediatricians: 46th

Psychiatrists: 50th

Obstetricians and gynecologists: 40th

Ophthalmologists: 48th

Orthopedic surgeons: 51st

General surgeons: 51st

Specialty surgeons: 51st

Now here’s the same comparison data for licensed nurses:

Registered nurses: 50th

Nurse practitioners: 41st

Clinical nurse specialists: 26th

Certified nurse midwives: 44th

Certified nurse anesthetists: 51st

Licensed practical nurses: 49th

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