VCC struggles with nurse shortage, seeks RNs

Vashon Community Care, facing a nurse shortage that administrators call concerning, has put out a call for local nurses to consider applying there.

The assisted living center north of town currently has positions open for two registered nurses (RNs). It has been seeking applications for several weeks, but has had very few responses.

“I was just feeling kind of at my wit’s end last week,” said Donna Zaglin, director of clinical services at VCC. “I’m trying to appeal to that person who’s not working full time that would come in and work here.”

The care center recently lost two RNs who quit their jobs for personal reasons not related to VCC. Both Zaglin and VCC Administrator Janelle Ansell say it’s unusual for the center to have more than one RN position open at once, and they normally don’t have such difficulty hiring nurses.

Ansell and Zaglin say that with 10 nurses normally on staff, being down two is significant. It means that other nurses must work more overtime and the center relies more on on-call nurses, something Ansell said isn’t sustainable or fiscally responsible.

Working overtime can lead to burnout, Ansell explained, and VCC prefers not to rely on on-call staff.

“We focus on having regular staff. It equates to resident care at a higher level,” she said. “We focus on keeping people in those permanent positions.”

VCC has advertised the positions both on and off the island. It has also sent out an all-island mailer, changed its signs on Vashon Highway to read that it seeks RNs and is continuing its $500 sign-on bonus for new nurses.

If VCC continues to face a nurse shortage, Ansell said she may apply for a waiver from the federal requirement that the center have 16 hours of RN coverage each day.

VCC may qualify for the waiver since it’s in a rural location, Ansell said, and the hours not covered by RNs could be augmented with licensed practical nurses (LPNs), who have less training than RNs but more training than certified nursing assistants (CNAs).

Both Ansell and Zaglin say they believe VCC may not be seeing nurse applications because there’s a stigma associated with nursing homes and many nurses gravitate toward hospital or clinic work. The nonprofit care center offers a competitive salary compared to other nursing homes, Zaglin noted, though it’s unable to compete with what hospitals pay.

“When you add an island to the mix, it’s tough,” Ansell said.

Zaglin said she even hesitated a few years ago to apply for her current position at VCC because it is a nursing home, but she has found the work there rewarding. She called the center vibrant and said nurses there appreciate being able to develop long-term relationships with the residents.

“I’ve been surprised and very gratified with the care that’s provided here and the challenges,” she said.

The center will consider any qualified RN applicants, but they prefer to hire on-island staff, Ansell said. Currently, about 85 percent of VCC’s staff are Vashon residents. With just under 100 employees, VCC is the third largest employer on the island, behind the Vashon School District and Sawbones.

“It makes for an easier commute, and there’s more commitment, taking care of people in your own community,” Ansell said.


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