The “Nursing Shortage” and its Effect on Jacksonville

For the past several years, sources like the American Association of Colleges of Nursing have noted an increasing shortage in nurses in the United States. According to the AACN’s website, “the U.S. is projected to experience a shortage of Registered Nurses (RNs) that is expected to intensify as Baby Boomers age and the need for health care grows.”

Any UNF nursing student knows how difficult it is to be admitted into the nursing program. UNF’s nursing program receives several hundred applications each semester, but there are only 40 slots available. While it is obviously important for nursing programs to have high standards, many would say that to combat the nursing shortage, schools should have less competitive nursing programs with more slots available.

The issue is that the nursing shortage also extends to nurse educators. In an AACN report on “2012-2013 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing”, around two-thirds of nursing schools surveyed cited insufficient number of educators as the main reason for turning away qualified applicants. The same study showed that U.S. nursing schools turned away almost 80,000 qualified applicants due to their inability to accomadate more students.

Jacksonville, however, has the advantage of being home to several accredited nursing schools, such as Jacksonville University’s and Florida State College of Jacksonville’s, in addition to UNF’s.

“Here in the Jacksonville area, we have a steady flow of brand new nurses coming out of school,” said Sandy Dupont, a critical care coordinator at St. Vincent’s Medical Center Riverside.

Jacksonville’s main issue is the inability of many hospitals to keep experienced nurses working on the floor. After several years working in a fast-paced environment with up to several twelve-hour shifts per week, many nurses become burned out and seek more stable jobs

Jody Strauch, a clinical documentations specialist at St. Vincent’s Southside who used to work as a nurse in the hospital’s emergency room, said she eventually took an office job because it worked better with her lifestyle.

“Since nurse schedules are usually 12-hour shifts working three days a week, I wanted more normal hours that are more common with the general population, and easier to raise children,” Strauch said. “Also, I wanted weekends and holidays off, which you can’t be guaranteed to have in regular nursing.”

In addition, many experienced nurses chose to move to more widely desired areas of nursing, such as labor and delivery. This leaves a shortage of experienced nurses in other areas, such as the E.R. and I.C.U..

“You need to have a good mix out on the unit,” said Tina Debile, a clinical documentation specialist at St. Vincent’s Medical Center Riverside. “New nurses need an experienced nurse to mentor them.”

Although nurse education jobs also have more stable hours, the shortage in nurse educators is primarily due to the low salary.

“The salary’s not necessarily what you could make at the hospital,” said Elizabeth Pope, a clinical documentations specialist at St. Vincent’s Medical Center Riverside and nurse educator. “So I think that deters a lot of nurses from going into the educational area.”

While residency programs that offer in-hospital training to new nurses can help better prepare them for the workplace, Debile, Pope and Dupont all agree that actual workplace is experience is by far the best way to improve.
In order to have enough nurse educators to accomodate the dire need for nurses across the country, Pope believes that ultimately the salaries will have to be raised.

Curly Fry Conundrum

Imagine what kinds of personal traits might be associated with high intelligence. Chances are, having a taste for curly fries didn’t come to mind. According to a University of Cambridge study, however, liking the “Curly Fries” page on Facebook is a trend among those with high IQs.

The study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzed the Facebook likes of over 58,000 volunteers to see how they correlated with various traits among Facebook’s user base. These traits include age, intelligence, race, sexual orientation, political views, emotional stability, satisfaction with life, drug and alcohol use, and even whether or not the user’s parents had separated by the time they turned 21.

Some of the correlations were fairly obvious; Liking Bill O’Reilly’s page was mostly associated with republican users, while the Joe Biden page was mostly liked by democrats. Other correlations were more ambiguous, however, such as “Curly Fries” being one of the top 5 liked pages among users with high intelligence.

In a TED Talk titled “The Curly Fry Conundrum”, computer scientist Jen Golbeck theorized how these kinds of associations exist. One theory, she says, is based on the concept of homophily. Homophily refers to the idea that individuals often associate with those who are most similar to themselves. In other words, “birds of a feather flock together.”

“If I were to give you a hypothesis, it would be that a smart guy started this page, or maybe one of the first people who liked it would have scored high on that test,” Golbeck said. “And they liked it, and their friends saw it- and by homophily, we know that he probably had smart friends- and so it spread to them, and some of them liked it, and they had smart friends, and so it spread to them, and so it propagated through the network to a host of smart people.”

While curly fries have no real connection to high intelligence, Golbeck says the spread of trends through homophily could have resulted in the average liker of the “Curly Fries” page having a high IQ. This is how researchers are able to make assumptions about a user based solely on their Facebook likes.

In fact, the findings of the University of Cambridge study were startlingly accurate. Conducted by Michal Kosinskia, David Stillwell, and Thore Graepel, the results show how the study was able to determine a user’s race in 95% of cases, and their sexual orientation in 88% of cases.

Of course, this method of data compiling could pose privacy issues. For instance, even if a person doesn’t like LGBT-related pages on Facebook, liking pages such as Kathy Griffin or Mac Cosmetics (some popular pages among homosexual males) can help researchers make conclusions about the person’s sexuality. In extreme cases, this could lead to a closeted gay person being outed by targeted ads and content.

One solution, Golbeck says, is to develop mechanisms that warn users of the risks of liking a page or even give users the option to make their information invisible to third parties. She says the same kind of research that is used to gather information can potentially be used to prevent information from being gathered.

“As a scientist, my goal is not to infer information about users,” Golbeck said. “It’s to improve the way people interact online.”

An Evening in St. Augustine’s Downtown Shopping District

Last Friday night, I took a trip around St. Augustine’s historical shopping district. While St. Augustine is best known for its status as the nation’s oldest city, as well as for its monuments (such as the Fountain of Youth and fort Castillo De San Marco), the city is also full of unique, locally-owned shops, restaurants, and art galleries. While St. Augustine is a lengthy drive away for most UNF students, there are an abundance of things to see and do in the city’s downtown area. This slideshow depicts a trip from the area’s town square to its main shopping stretch, St. George Street.

All photos by Erica Bunch.