Nursing, tech shortages? Phooey

Jan. 1, 2020
If we really mean what we say, we would pay techs appropriately.

Not too many people would argue that there is a severe shortage of nurses and automotive technicians. A casual perusal of the classified section in most newspapers accentuates the problem. Likewise, not too many people would argue that it is important to fill these positions.

On the surface, both of these shortages seem beyond resolution. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let's take nursing first. Even signing bonuses and hiring nurses from foreign countries hasn't worked to properly staff hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities. Well, here's a shot of reality if you haven't given this much thought: There are plenty of nursing graduates who become nurses but don't stay in nursing once they figure out the facility they work for is understaffed. And not because there aren't enough available nurses, but because health care organizations purposely keep nursing staffs at a bare minimum. Since health care has become big business run by big business, there's little tolerance for "excess personnel." Bottom line: the nursing shortage is contrived.

To underscore the extent of the problem, let me share a real life story to which I am privy. At a recent meeting at a large local hospital, a nursing VP addressed her nursing staff about the nursing "shortage" by exclaiming the hospital didn't need more nurses, because more nurses would lead to "The Three Bs" –– bitching, back stabbin' and BS in.' Blaming the employees for a situation created and maintained by management is bad enough but, in essence, this particular meeting was just an outright attack on the entire nursing profession.

Funny how this attitude disappears when the health care organizations market themselves. Nurses are presented as the ultimate professionals "who care and make a difference." There's no shortage of accolades when it comes to trying to fill the beds.

This brings me to the technician shortage (see our cover story in last month's issue), which also is artificial, and if not contrived, it's at least self-induced.

We tell each other at industry gatherings how important and how professional technicians are (so much so that we can't call them mechanics anymore) and what a great opportunity car repair is for kids in search of a career. Well, maybe for someone else's kid. Similarly, we need kids serving in the military, but your own? C'mon.

If we really mean what we say, we would make sure that we compensate technicians appropriately. Strip away the rhetoric and take a look at the sorry compensation statistics for technicians that Princeton Review reports:

  • Average hours worked per week: 45
  • Average starting wage: $13,940
  • Average wage after five years: $22,830
  • Average wage after 10 to 15 years: $32,450

And kids aren't lining up to take the jobs? Go figure. At these wages, this is barely a job, let alone a profession.

Don't think for one second that I'm not amazed at the high caliber work that the industry's technicians do. I'm just amazed that they do it for so little, and that the industry continues to condone it.

Boosting the payroll may not be palatable, but it should be evident as to how this story ends without an adequate number of technicians.

Larry Silvey, Publisher & Group Editorial Director [email protected]