I applaud the staff nurse who testified about what the VA hospitals are doing & the result it has had. Its interesting that the a VA official agree that use of mandatory ot is increasing & that may be a sign of "some staffing issues".
The Hearing/Testimony Summary:
"ANA Addresses the Impact of the Nursing Shortage at Senate Committee Hearing -
Washington, DC, June 15 -
Today before the Senate Committee on Veteran's Affairs, staff nurse Sandra McMeans, RN, testified on behalf of the American Nurses Association (ANA) regarding the looming nursing shortage and its impact on the Department of Veterans Affairs.
ANA is concerned by current staffing constraints and by reports showing that the nursing workforce will soon fall short of the demand for nursing services. As the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employs the largest nursing workforce in the nation, the emerging shortage could soon have an impact on the health care services provided to America's veterans.
ANA maintains that the reasons for the current shortage and the answers to the impending shortage are multifaceted.
Of particular concern is the negative impact today's working environment is having on the retention of registered nurses as well as the ability of the profession to recruit students.
Ms. McMeans' statement highlighted the fact that enrollments in nursing schools have dropped in each of the last six consecutive years.
As a staff nurse and president of the West Virginia Nurses Association Local 203 bargaining unit, McMeans knows first-hand the hardships faced by today's nurses, "Nurses in Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers in particular are being confronted by staff downsizing, increased patient acuity, shorter hospital stays, bed closures and flat-lined budgets.
These changes have caused such a deterioration on the work environment that nurses are opting not to accept staff nurse positions."
In her written testimony, McMeans provided the committee with an ANA supported integrated state and federal legislative campaign that addresses the current and impending nursing shortage - a campaign which is applicable to the VHA as well as other hospitals. Key federal initiatives addressed in the comments included elimination of mandatory overtime, models for adequate staffing, support for nurse education and locality pay.
Dr. Thomas Garthwaite, Undersecretary for Health at the VHA, also testified at the hearing. "I am concerned that the use of overtime is increasing," stated Garthwaite. "This suggests that we have some staffing issues."
In the five years between 1995 and 2000, the VA has DOWNSIZED its RN workforce dramatically. AT THE SAME TIME, the VHA has brought 500,000 ADDITIONAL veterans into the health system, and cut the amount spent per
patient by 24 percent.
McMeans told the committee that no effort to address the nursing shortage will be a success unless the problems of the work environment are addressed.
"After all," said McMeans, "how many of us would want to work in an environment where we have little to no control over the number of hours that we work, the quality of the work we produce, or the ability to change our work environment." http://www.ana.org/pressrel/2001/pr0614.htm
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