In these times of economic uncertainty, when many businesses are laying off employees, the operator of the county's two area hospitals is hungry for qualified job applicants in several medical fields, particularly nursing.

If the hospitals ran an help wanted ad it might read this way: Wanted: Classic helping profession needs people with intellectual ability, emotional stability and physical stamina to work in satisfying and rewarding job offering competitive pay and benefits.

In the past 18 months, Upper Chesapeake Health System Inc., which operates Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace and Fallston General in Fallston, has increased its efforts to recruit new employees with a variety of programs from educational scholarships to mail-outs to new residents.

Susan Bolgiano, personnel director for UCHS, says it often has openings for medical technicians, radiologists, physical and occupational therapists and respiratory technicians, and registered and licensed practical nurses.

Upper Chesapeake is now seeking a number of applicants.

Harford Memorial has openings for two full-time and 13 part-time LPNs, two full-time and one part-time RN, a cytotechnologist, one lab and two medical technicians and two phlebotomists.

The Fallston hospital has need of a phlebotomist, respiratory technician, physical and occupational therapists and a radiologic technologist.

"There's a chronic shortage of technicians. A lot has to do with utilization -- they can choose to work in other settings other than the traditional hospital setting, and such employment opportunities increase faster than the supply," said Bolgiano.

"The nursing shortage across the board is critical," said Darcel Guy, public relations associate for the UCHS. "LPN's and RN's are taking administrative jobs where they can make more money."

UCHS recruits through some traditional methods, such as advertising job openings in area newspapers and in newspapers in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Jobs also are posted internally, and administrators attend local job fairs.

UCHS also has begun offering nursing scholarships to Harford Community College nursing students and sending out packages of information to new county residents.

Beginning in 1989, UCHS began offering a Nursing Scholarship Program for students enrolled in the associate's degree nursing program at HCC.

Applicants must be Harford County residents and meet the college's academic requirements.

UCHS offers students up to $3,500 to cover costs for the two-year program, including tuition and other administrative fees, books and supplies and a $100 stipend per semester.

In return, the student must agree to accept employment at either Fallston General or Harford Memorial hospital for one year for each year of funding received.

Sandra Burke, 31, of Aberdeen, has taken advantage of the scholarship program. An LPN since 1986, she needed only one year of additional schooling to earn her RN, which she received last June, with the help of $1,600 in educational help from UCHS.

"I'm also a single parent, so the money helped," she said. "You wouldn't believe how expensive nursing school is. The books alone are $50 to $75 each."

Burke now works three days a week at Harford Memorial. She expects to stay there past her required year to repay the scholarship.

"I would have at least started there anyway, because I knew the people and it's close to home," she said.

Another area of recruitment possibilities for Upper Chesapeake comes from new people moving into Harford County.

"We're fortunate that there is a lot of migration in this county," Bolgiano noted. "One subtle way we go about contacting them is having a package of information go out to newcomers -- a lot of businesses do that -- with the knowledge that if there are people in the household with medical skills, if they know the organization is here, they may contact us."

UCHS is the single largest medical employer in Harford County, offering a variety of positions in various areas of health care.

A locally owned and managed non-profit organization, UCHS also operates five family care centers, two urgent care service centers, and an Occupational and Industrial Health Program. It also operates the Rehabilitation Center at Riverside, an Employee Assistance Program, two dental offices and a home health care agency.

In recruitment efforts, UCHS stresses that one organization operating so many services makes a job search easier for applicants, Bolgiano said.

"A lot of new people are looking for a pool of employers they can go to in one afternoon under one roof, because they aren't familiar with the area," she said.

For those with medical skills, but who perhaps need to brush up on the latest trends and methods, the company offers a six-week Refresher Nurse Program at Fallston General. The $350 course fee is waived for those who agree to work at the hospital for one year upon course completion.

"Staff development and on-going support for employees is very important," Bolgiano said. "You need the staff development for changes in technology, training on new equipment -- it's our responsibility to see that everyone who will be using a new piece of equipment is competent to use it."

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