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Job Shortages, Care Shortages: The U.S. Nursing Workforce and the Crisis of American Health Care

Job Shortages, Care Shortages: The U.S. Nursing Workforce and the Crisis of American Health Care
1 Devonshire Place, Room 208N
Time: Feb 24th, 3:00 pm End: Feb 24th, 5:00 pm
Interest Categories: Women & Gender Studies (FAS), United States Studies, Medicine, Faculty of , 2000-, 1950-2000
Lecture by Caitlin Henry, PhD candidate, Department of Geography

The Centre for the Study of the United States, Munk School of Global Affairs, is pleased to present:

Caitlin Henry, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography

Job Shortages, Care Shortages: The U.S. Nursing Workforce and the Crisis of American Health Care

The United States has suffered from nursing shortages since at least the 1970s. As a result, rural and inner-city hospitals struggled to properly and consistently staff, offering signing bonuses, and recruiting nurses from abroad. Nursing schools also increased enrollment, and a new generation of nurses—lured by the good job market and salary—entered the profession. As the early stages of the recession began in the mid-2000s, however, the job market changed drastically. Fewer positions exist, and health care facilities are only hiring nurses with experience. Yet, nurse-to-patient ratios have remained similar to the days of the labour shortage. This paper investigates this situation, arguing that a new normal in nursing and health care in the U.S. has arrived. By interrogating the recent switch from a shortage to surplus of nurses over the past decade, this paper investigates the impacts of states and federal policies aimed at alleviating the shortage of the late 1990s/early 2000s through growing the domestic labour supply, as well as changing expectations around nurse-to-patient ratios. As this new era will show, shortages and surpluses in social reproductive labour involve the manipulation of expectations around care and the value ascribed to it. The new normal in health care and nursing arises through various types of crisis—oversupply of nurses, shortage of nurses, general economic crisis—but in the end is a crisis of neoliberal health care.

Caitlin Henry is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto. Her research works towards a political definition of health by placing the work of health care at the centre. Her dissertation investigates the impacts of labour surplus and shortage on the nursing workforce, the work of nursing, and the geography of health care by drawing on the everyday practice of nursing, state-driven hospital closures, and federal health and immigration policy since the early 1980s.

Registration is required for this event. Please register here.

Photo credit: Mary Immaculate Hospital (Queens, NY), one of many facilities that closed in the 2008 recession

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