5 hospitals in Minamisoma to cooperate in battling nurse shortage

17 November 2017

Five hospitals in Minamisoma city, Fukushima Prefecture, are poised to start exchanging nurses, possibly starting next spring, in a concerted effort to address the chronic shortage of nursing staff in the Minanmisoma region brought on by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. Under the "nurse-to-nurse partnership" between the Minamisoma Municipal General Hospital and four private concerns, nurses will work at different hospitals for a limited period. The project is designed to provide human support, training and technical guidance through personnel exchanges between the municipal and private hospitals. Talks are under way among senior officials of the hospitals involved on details of the exchange program.

The four private hospitals are Omachi, Onoda, Hibarigaoka and Kashima Kosei hospitals.

In terms of human support, the municipal hospital, which has secured more personnel than the four private hospitals, and the private ones will mutually dispatch nurses for training for a fixed period, thus helping reduce each other’s workload per person.

The program is expected to provide junior nurses at the five hospitals with opportunities for honing their skills as well as learning ways of treating patients and acquiring expertise from experienced nurses. The municipal hospital plans to launch dialysis within the current fiscal year ending next March and expects to learn related skills from nurses at Omachi and Onoda hospitals, both of which are already providing the therapy.

As the hospitals differ in such aspects as pay systems, the number of paid holidays and welfare programs, their nursing directors and other senior officials set up a municipal conference of nursing managers this summer. The group is already discussing details, including how long nurses will be dispatched. The conference is tapping human resources for nurses by advising new high school graduates on the significance of nursing and setting up an employment counseling corner at each joint job interview session hosted by the city.

According to the city, there were about 530 nurses in Minamisoma as of March 2011 immediately before the earthquake and nuclear accident, but the number shrank to some 350 as of last April following the disaster. The city is said to face a shortage of about 100 nurses at present.

Tamayo Fujiwara , nursing director at Omachi Hospital who chairs the managers’ conference, and Rika Igarashi , deputy chief of the municipal hospital who concurrently serves as nursing director, said “Minamisoma is one” is a catchword. They also expressed their intention to revitalize regional medical care by supplementing each other’s weaknesses beyond the framework of public and private sectors. Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai said: “The city will also aggressively cooperate and would like to establish an easy-to-work environment for nurses.”

(Translated by Kyodo News)