The proliferation of cardiac care facilities in southeastern Wisconsin is creating a dire need for qualified flexible care specialists.
"The biggest problem in Milwaukee is that there are more heart services than needed for the demand of the city, and many programs are conducting a low volume of procedures because of it. It is clearly linked to quality care," said Robert Roth, a cardiologist at Columbia St. Mary's Hospital, Milwaukee.
According to Roth, the rise in heart services within the city is diluting the pool of employable people, creating a shortage of critical care nurses, technicians and perfusionists.
"Heart care centers need a whole separate pool of skilled technical personnel, employees that can handle stress tests, electrocardiograms, cardiac ultrasounds in the catheterization labs, and so on," Roth said. "There is already a fixed and limited pool of qualified personnel because of the lifestyle preferences, health concerns in terms of exposure to radiation and mental interest that come with working in cardiac or critical care."
"As far as age and years to come, with growth in cardiology and the shortage in health care workers between nursing and technical positions, we will continue to look for the most qualified professionals," said Steve Francaviglia, metro regional vice president of cardiac services for Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee.
Because of the growth in vascular scanning, many jobs are available outside of hospitals at independent imaging centers, such as Milwaukee Heart Scan.
Professor Mary Louise Brown, chairwoman of the school of nursing at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), said plenty of opportunities exist for nurses in critical care.
With the aging population of baby boomers, MSOE is anticipating nurses will need more cardiac care experience. MSOE currently requires a critical care course within its undergraduate program, which is only offered as an elective at most nursing schools, according to Brown.
"We are looking to put more of an emphasis on critical care through a shortened master's program," Brown said. "There is definitely a need for critical care nurses. We don't know to what extent, but we have heard from other schools that without experience in critical care, students are having difficulty finding jobs."
Jill Winters, associate professor of nursing at Marquette University, said cardiac care nurses are in high demand because heart disease is widespread and multi-faceted.
"Psych patients tend to have hypertension and heart disease. Patients with diabetes mostly have heart and lung disease. Pregnancy can cause stress, and there are serious cardiac problems in the neonatal centers within hospitals," Winters said. "You need to be able to help in any situation."
Heart care centers such as the Wisconsin Heart Hospital, Wauwatosa, have a demand for flexible specialized personnel to stay with patients throughout their stay.
"This method requires that we pay much more attention in our selection process. In recruiting, we look for employees that are best able to provide this care," said Verna Seitz, vice president of patient care services at the Wisconsin Heart Hospital.
"Nurses in critical care receive great satisfaction from working under critical conditions, but many don't necessarily care for those other elements as the patients improve. Recognizing those preferences, we needed to make certain that candidates know about and want to embrace this model of care," Seitz said.
Judy Hawkins, manager of human resources for the Wisconsin Heart Hospital, said technicians also need both flexibility and specialization.
"In imaging and radiology, we tailored our recruitment efforts to see highly technical imaging technicians. We are a smaller and more focused model of health care and are looking specifically for an imaging technician that can perform an echocardiography, a sonogram of the heart, as well as vascular work."
The Wisconsin Heart Hospital has 160 employees, including 70 nurses and 30 technicians.
"The more demand there is for employees, the less employees there are to recruit from," said Francaviglia. "In the market itself, there is a lot of networking, which has resulted in a solid group of good employees for Aurora because of who we are and what we represent."
April 30, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee