Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nursing shortage

For a moment I'd like to share some thoughts on the nursing shortage. There are many reasons that have been studied, the aging workforce of baby boomers beginning to retire, more opertunities for women in the work force than previous generations, a shortage of educators. These and others have been studied exhaustively.
What I'd like to address is something that I believe has not been given enough attention. Perhaps nowhere is the shortage as severe as at the bedside.
Because bedside nursing is hard!
Bedside nurses work under extreme stress, physical and emotional, hour after hour, day after day, without lunch breaks, without bathroom breaks, with little control over their practice. They are subjected to abuse from patients, families, and doctors, and administration. It's no wonder so many leave the bedside for other work. Because of their unique skill set they are recruited to management, teaching, consulting and more.
They are encouraged to further their education to higher degrees, a worthy goal, but then they are taken away from the bed side. A nurse enters the profession, works their tail off, continues their schooling, and is rewarded with a job that takes them away from the patients, with increased pay, time for lunch and bathroom, better parking and other perks, control over other nurse's practice, ect.
One big problem,
who's going to take care of the patients?
What can be done?
First, we must elevate the status of the bedside nurse. There is a similar thing happening with doctors. There are so many advantages to being a specialist that we lack primary care. The bedside nurse and the primary care physician should considered the top of their professions.
The bedside nurse should be the highest paid, they should have control over their practice, they should get any perks, they should be staffed to allow breaks.
Crazy ideas?
What's crazy is our treatment of the bedside nurse. If we do not change our way of thinking and acting there will be no one left to do the actual work of caring for the patients.

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