Hospital brass shares a meal |

Hospital brass shares a meal

Susan Wood

The same day a study was released indicating high frustration among U.S. nurses, Barton Memorial Hospital gave its front-line health care professionals a little TLC Monday.

The South Lake Tahoe-based hospital treated them to a balanced meal served up by apron-clad Director of Hospital Operations Kathy Cocking and Chief Executive Officer Bill Gordon. City Councilwoman Judy Brown read a proclamation declaring Nurse Appreciation Week.

Brown, who runs Tahoe Manor Guest Home, was a nurse and remembers her days on the obstetrics ward as her happiest.

But she also acknowledged how stressful and demanding the job is.

The hospital has slated a whole lineup of activities for the ceremonial week to ensure its nurses are happy.

“I think it’s the least I can do. We’re fortunate we haven’t had nearly the shortage in this community as Sacramento,” Gordon said, taking a break from his culinary shift at noon.

Nevada and California have gained notoriety in recent weeks for commanding the worst nurse-to-population ratio for any two states in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Adding insult to injury, this latest study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing Center indicated that one of every three U.S. nurses surveyed under age 30 planned to leave their jobs.

Further, 41 percent of them said they were dissatisfied and almost half scored high on a burnout inventory used to measure emotional exhaustion and the extent to which they felt overwhelmed.

“I think they do get burned out. I hope (our nurses) know we really appreciate them,” Gordon said.

About 45 nurses showed up for lunch. Breakfast that morning brought out another 35.

“I think the reason why they’re frustrated is because the job comes with such emotional highs and lows,” orthopedics unit Certified Nursing Assistant Carol Patosky said. “I feel fulfilled. You can’t beat it.”

Patosky took advantage of the sunny, warm day in Tahoe to roll up to the hospital in Rollerblades for a meeting.

“Most of the time I like my job because of the challenges,” she said.

On her own time Patosky attends Lake Tahoe Community College for the prerequisites necessary to receive her registered nursing license.

Barton established a tuition reimbursement program for employees like Patosky, Cocking indicated.

That’s one of the benefits the University of Pennsylvania study said hospitals should offer nurses, along with better advancement opportunities and flexible work schedules.

And those who climb the clinical ladder and volunteer for various committee appointments or represent the hospital in the community may make 8 percent more on their paychecks at the highest tier – the Master’s level.

“The thing that blew my mind when I heard the study is how many nurses were verbally abused,” said Cocking, a 22-year nurse herself. “This is just not tolerated here. I can’t think of a faster way to lose nurses.”

As far as flex time, Cocking said hospital managers try to accommodate nurses’ schedules as much as possible. She believes 80 percent of satisfied nurses may be traced back to schedules that relate to their lives.

“We are doing everything we can to keep our staff here and happy,” she said, including a pay rate comparable to the Sacramento region. Barton’s average salary is $48,000.

The turnover rate appears highest in the first two years at Barton, as some employees find their spouses can’t get work in Tahoe or they get tired of the snow. After that, Cocking has noticed the tenures become much longer.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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