Albany Med, Russell Sage partner amid nurse shortage

The New Scotland Avenue entrance of Albany Medical Center is shown in 2021.

The New Scotland Avenue entrance of Albany Medical Center is shown in 2021.

ALBANY — The Albany Med Health System is taking another step to address its long-running nursing shortage, partnering with a local college to expand the education of nursing students.

The various campuses of the large regional hospital system will host Russell Sage College nursing students for their clinical assignments, and the college will offer discounted graduate nursing programs to Albany Med employees.

Upon graduation, students will be encouraged to pursue career opportunities with Albany Med.

The agreement also lays out a registered nurse program-bachelor of science program tailored to Albany Med employees.

The college and the hospital system presented the agreement  as a symbiotic relationship that helps recruit new employees and provides growth opportunities for existing employees.

Russell Sage College President Chris Ames said the college has been training nurses for a century and is perfectly positioned to help address the shortage of medical personnel that has worsened amid the long-running stress of the COVID pandemic.

Russell Sage College enrolls roughly 2,300 students in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs at its Troy and Albany campuses and online.

Before the pandemic, the Albany Med Health System totaled more than 16,000 employees at four hospitals and 125 outpatient locations.

Nurses are in particularly short supply — Albany Medical Center’s online job portal lists 80 job openings posted in the last 30 days, and hundreds more earlier in the year.

But the problem extends beyond Albany Med — across the region, state and beyond. Most hospitals have dozens of job openings posted for registered nurses.

In a briefing it prepared last month on the subject, Albany Med said the continuing shortage of nurses is threatening patient services and crushing budgets at every hospital, not just its hospitals.

Albany Med uses temporary staffing provided by nursing agencies to bridge the gap left by staff shortages, as many other hospitals do.

But these traveling nurse agencies have raised the rates they charge Albany Med 220% in three years, the health system said. It said it paid these agencies $60 million in the first half of 2022, up from $8 million to $9 million in a busy year before the pandemic.

The partnership with Russell Sage is only the latest step attempted by Albany Med Health System to reduce this stress. It’s also lobbying for regulatory changes, has recruited overseas, and has created an internal system for licensed practical nurses and others to study to become registered nurses.

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