Iowa Prisons Facing Nursing Shortage

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa is having trouble hiring enough registered nurses at state prisons, so it's turning to workers with fewer credentials to fill the gap.

The Iowa Department of Corrections says a shortage of registered nurses at some clinics within its nine prisons has led the agency to seek more licensed practical nurses. Known as LPNs, they need less health care education and can be paid less. They can do similar tasks as registered nurses, but they carry restrictions in their interactions with patients and require more oversight.

Kathy Weiss, administrator of nursing for corrections, says it's difficult to compete with nearby hospital jobs that offer better benefits.

Some unions representing Iowa nurses argue the staffing shortage will only worsen as the effects of recent changes to the state's collective bargaining law begin to set in, though state officials say it's too early to know its impact on hiring.

Photo: Karen Ducey / KUOW

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