This Editorial Comment from the Reno Gazette I think deserves a reposting. Stiaght to the point and covers my sentiments.
Causes of nursing shortage no mystery
By Robert Johnston
October 19th, 2000
It was incredible to me that your front-page article on the nursing shortage on Sept. 25 didn’t include any interviews with staff nurses. Do you really expect administrators to make statements other than, “We feel like our benefits are really generous?” Do you really expect them to blame the shortage on anything other than lack of recruitment to nursing schools?
In any event, the factual reasons for the nursing shortage are quite simple. Traditional career molds for women have been shattered. Women (and men) are weighing their interests with a career choice that will bring them worthy compensation, as well as factors that will enhance their quality of life. The nursing profession falls short on both of these counts!
Upon graduation, most nurses can expect to work nights, weekends and holidays. They also will have to work extra shifts or overtime in order to be looked upon favorably by their managers. They’ll be working many of their days under stressful or understaffed conditions, while continually trying to provide optimal care for their patients.
In addition, they will also receive less compensation, less vacation and less retirement benefits than their teacher, accountant, engineering, chemistry and computer industry classmates! A case in point: A new graduate nurse hired by one of the regional medical centers in this community will make less compensation and less vacation than a new graduate accountant hired by this same institution. Now compare their shifts, holidays worked and stress levels! Nurses also have to achieve continual education credit to maintain licensure; constantly be on full alert in assessing patient needs, implementing orders and medication delivery, and frequently be exposed to an array of infectious diseases and antibiotic-resistant microorganisms.
It’s been stated by many, including a recent letter to the editor, that teaching and nursing are the two honorable professions that have the least support and compensation going for them. I’d like to differentiate between the two. Among the advantages that teachers have is that they’re part of the “public” sector. They do get much sympathy and support. From me, however, they get envy! I’m envious of the commensurate salaries, ample vacation time, the advantageous work schedule and the phenomenal retirement benefit package. Ironically, nurses can spend their careers providing long, hard hours of beneficial health care to patients in all types of institutions and not even receive health-care coverage themselves upon retirement.
Norma Brown, associate administrator for patient care services at Saint Mary’s, was quoted in this article stating, “ . . . you’ve got to be able to focus on the young women and help them recognize the opportunities that are available to them.” Well, if that were done in an unbiased fashion, I would suppose even more women, given the aforementioned points, would realize the disadvantages of the profession! Ms. Brown also stated that the benefits at Saint Mary’s were “really generous,” yet what wasn’t mentioned is that some of those benefits were only improved upon as little as a year-and-a-half ago to help divert a union vote by and for nursing at that facility!
Over the course of many years, in my opinion, nurses have exhibited characteristics that seem paradoxical. They tend to be very active in assuming roles that will support patient safety and care delivery and act as patient advocates (e.g., supporting or fighting legislative issues in order not to compromise the care of the patient). But, they also seem to be selfless and more passive when it has come to demanding appropriate compensation for themselves, especially in consideration of the worsening conditions that they have had to deal with.
Does the nursing profession offer personal rewards? Of course, it does. But, are these rewards worth the mounting disadvantages of the profession? The nursing shortage seems to tell that answer.
Sadly, the nursing shortage needs to worsen (and it will) until there’s even a chance of compensating nurses to their full value and bringing the profession into an equal playing field and favorable career choice.
Robert Johnston is a Reno area nurse.
© 2000 Reno Gazette-Journal