Where Have All the Nurses Gone?

stock photo : attractive overworked young nurse in green scrubs with a bad headache

There is a serious problem in our health care system today. There is a problem with effective care and a problem with patients being cared for in a time sensitive manner. Why do we have this problem? There is a severe shortage in nurses.

Are there fewer nurses because there are more doctors? No. Are there fewer nurses because there are less people in the world? Certainly not. So with an extreme increase in population, especially with the Baby Boomer generation ending up in hospitals and nursing homes as their generation comes to an end, don’t we need more nurses? Absolutely.

So why then, if there is such a high demand for nurses these days are there virtually no nurses to come to our aid as soon as we need them? I first noticed this problem as I sat by my dad’s side during his two year struggle with his health. I noticed one facility – a highly accredited hospital in Cleveland – that gave outstanding care to him in a very time effective manner. After he left this hospital for rehabilitation facilities and ultimately a skilled nursing home, it was all downhill. He was given less attention, poorer quality care, and in turn, had a harder time in recovery because he felt as if he was being ignored and this mentally and physically hurt him.

Is this because the nurses at these other facilities cared less or were not as good at their jobs? Hardly. In fact it was because there were less of these wonderful, caring individuals to go around and give him the attention he so severely needed. There were days where I was hoisting my father onto a bed pan, turning him to avoid bed sores and shaving his face after he had gone two weeks without a shave.

So let me address what I brought up before – the reason there is such a lack in nurses in our medical facilities all over the nation.  Along with a large part of the population nearing old age, a majority of nurses are also entering into their golden retirement years.  With these nursing positions being evacuated, more and more positions are opening up for younger nurses fresh out of school.  But according to Will Dunham, a reporter for the Reuters News Source(http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/03/08/us-usa-nurses-idUSTRE5270VC20090308), one of the reasons is that schools have to turn away nursing student applicants.  This is because there is a shortage of faculty willing to teach in nursing schools. If you are going to have a graduate degree in nursing, why would you settle for an average of $65,000 a year for teaching when you can make over $80,000 by doing?

A lack in nurses in our health care system also leads to a larger work load for nurses. They are stretched thin among their patients and have a higher paper work load as well – all required to be finished before their shift is up – no overtime.  Nurses are becoming less satisfied with their jobs and are looking to early retirement in order to ease the stress in their lives.

stock photo : Overworked Woman Doctor or Nurse with Headache and Tired Eyes at Computer

So then, if the nursing shortage is such a concern, what is being done to alleviate it?  Well, there are charitable programs being set up to help fund campaigns to bring more people in to the nursing profession.  Nurses For A Healthier Tomorrow is one such organization. It works to put the word out through advertising and campaigns that our nursing situation is in trouble. The Campaigns for Nursing’s Future, put together by the National Honor Society of Nursing and Johnson & Johnson, is another such charitable organization working to bring awareness about the shortage in nursing careers and the lack of educational opportunities to those who are interested in joining the nursing field.

These are both great organizations working hard to change the problems that exist in today’s medical field. But while we await these changes and these nurses to come forth, how does it affect our own health and our own experiences in medical facilities. And that my friends, is a whole other story…

For additional information on nursing statistics, please visit: http://www.nursingsociety.org/Media/Pages/shortage.aspx

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