Low Doctor-Patient Ratios in Reno

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Reno's hospitals are facing severe health care shortages across the board. The need for nurses, doctors and other health care professionals is greater than ever, and the smaller the community, the bigger the problem.

Nurse and doctor-to-patient ratios in Reno are said to be some of the lowest on the West Coast, according to some Renown Hospital staff. The smaller the city's population, the less people willing to go into medicine.

"Rural areas are just that much harder because you don't have the population that lives there. Many times, you have to go out of town to get educated and often they'll stay elsewhere," said Renown Recruiter Dennis Hoban.

Medical professionals usually prefer bigger cities with bigger hospitals because that's where they find the most challenging patients.

"The physicians here have more at their disposal here, more modern, high-tech equipment, more nurses, more personnel," said Clinical Nurse Richard Davis.

Hospitals in smaller, rural towns also pay less than big cities, and the opportunities for family members to get jobs and education are slim.
Rural areas also lack shopping, nightlife, restaurants and other big city opportunities that more metropolitan areas have to offer.

Reno's young people could be the solution to the medical staff shortage. Andrea Palosaari is a senior at Reno High School...and like many of her classmates, she dreams of becoming a nurse in a big city like New York or San Diego.

"I wouldn't want to go to a small town. That wouldn't be fun."

Like most future doctors and nurses, Palosaari wants more than just a small, rural community to care for.

"Reno's pretty small, but I wouldn't want to go any smaller," said Palosaari.

But for some, who have already tried out small-town life:

"I've worked in small facilities and it's more homey. In a place like this, the only people I know are the people in my department," said Davis.

Reno hospitals hope the medical field will appeal to today's young people, but it may take some convincing. The group hardest hit by the health care crisis is patients in rural communities. The more isolated the patient and the farther they have to drive for health care, the less likely they are to maintain their health.