Dept. Of Veterans Affairs Nursing Hearing

  1. The Department of Veteran Affairs responds to the shortage of Nurses ,quote "the VA just asked this week for a report on the nursing situation. That's a little late, don't you think?"
    My grandmother worked as an aide in the VA Hospital for more than 40 years and was a great inspiration to me and my decision to become a nurse. The service provided to veterans is of extreme importance.
    Michele


    Hearing focuses
    on nursing
    Veterans hospitals could be
    hit by employee shortage

    Karin Fischer <kfischer@dailymail.com>
    Daily Mail Washington bureau

    Friday June 15, 2001; 01:24 PM
    WASHINGTON -- Veterans hospital nurse Sandra McMeans of Martinsburg said she faces the same dilemma with increasing frequency.

    With demands to work mandatory overtime mounting, an exhausted McMeans knows she is "ethically bound to refuse to provide care if I can't provide it safely," she told a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on Thursday.

    But she feels a responsibility to aid her patients.

    McMeans isn't alone in her quandary, and it's likely to intensify as the nation braces for a nursing shortage.

    The 173 Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country, including four medical centers in West Virginia, could be battered badly. The veteran population is older than the populace as a whole, and nurses at veterans' hospitals are closer to retirement age.

    Forty-seven percent of the 45,000 nurses employed by the federal government, the bulk by the veterans' department, are eligible to retire within the next three years, said Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., a veteran and former head of the Veterans Administration.

    "I was a patient in the veterans' system. I know how critical nurses are," said Cleland, who credited nurses with "nursing me to health but also giving me a reason for living."

    Sen. Jay Rockefeller, newly installed as chairman of the committee, called the hearing to deal with the looming nursing shortage. But it quickly became clear that the veterans' health care system could face a more immediate problem from dissatisfied nurses leaving.

    McMeans and other nursing representatives repeatedly said mandatory overtime drives away employees and threatens patient care.

    Many nurses are women with children. When hospital officials ask them to work 16-hour double shifts, it leads nurses to say, "I can't do nursing. I've got to find another job," said J. David Cox of the National VA Council.

    "In Martinsburg, nurses have quit and left the VA," McMeans said. "The word is out in the community." However, she said she thought the problem was reversible if Veterans Administration officials backed away from mandatory overtime and "became creative in retention" methods.

    Veterans Affairs officials downplayed the use of overtime and the loss of nurses. Catherine Rick, the department's chief nurse consultant, said the total nursing population is stable but problems exist in particular specialties or regions of the country. She said there has been a "slight increase" in the use of overtime over the last three years.

    But Rockefeller, D-W.Va., questioned how in tune the department is with nursing problems, noting, "the VA just asked this week for a report on the nursing situation. That's a little late, don't you think?"

    "Quality of care issues have always been important to this committee and to me, in particular, and the impending nurse shortage has the potential to be a serious quality of care issue for the Department of Veterans Affairs," he said.

    Writer Karin Fischer can be reached at (202) 662-8732.
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  2. 7 Comments

  3. by   night owl
    You would think that with all the money the government has, the VA system would be the least effected by the nursing shortage!!!!!
    I am a VA nurse and have been for 24 years. I've never seen it so bad as I have in the last few years. Our veterans deserve more than bare minimum care. They fought the front lines, had their arm and legs blown off, had their minds blown away, live every day with PTSD so that you and I can have freedom and live everyday in peace and harmony. The government has the resources to pay for the quality care that our veterans deserve, so I ask you, why is their a nursing shortage in the VA system??? It's called GREED for the almighty dollar. The bottom line is always about the money. You better believe that the directors of these hospitals and nursing homes are making top dollar and are paid thousands of dollars in bonus money to cut back even farther on costs. It's criminal. The government promised each and every veteran that they would take care of them. As far as I can see, the government is slapping them right in the face by not replacing nurses that that quit and NA's who are fed up with 20 pts. apiece each and everyday. The vets are getting everything BUT the best care that is deserving to them and yes, I blame yours and my Uncle Sam for that and nobody else...
  4. by   rncountry
    Nightowl, I fully agree. In Battle Creek, MI where there is a VA facility, only about three-four years ago they let a bunch of RNs go, then had a hiring freeze on RNs. Now they don't have enough and are crying for them. Of course that same story is also true for many of the civilian hospitals around me. Few years ago they were laying nurses off, now they are begging for them. This may be considered antedotal for those looking at the issue for studies, but it is nonetheless real. For myself what is prevelant in both the VA and in nursing homes in terms of providing to those that once provided for us, is the national shame of this country. People are not disposable simply because they have become unable to provide back to society anymore, but that is how they are treated. Absolutely shameful.
  5. by   -jt
    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
    # # #
  6. by   cmggriff
    To all who post here,
    I am a veteran myself and so is my wife. We went to the Gulf fully understanding our Uncle Sugar would let us down when we most needed him. We accepted this because we had witnessed the use and abuse of veterans of prior wars. I also served on active duty after the war. For about a year after we were frequently applauded and congratulated by civilians. Then everyone lost interest. To the point now that people I work with complain to my supervisor when a fellos vet and I recount our war stories.
    This is as it should be. The glorification and romaticizing of war needs to stop. To survive as a species we need to stop having wars.
    I detest the way the vets of WWII, Korea and Vietnam have seen those benefits they earned
    erooded and denied to them. But, I expect the same thing to happen to me and my fellow
    vets. Soldiers are only desirable and useful
    in combat. Gary
  7. by   Norbert Holz
    I too, am a veteran. I am greatly indebted for the sacrfices made by the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces! Every chance I get I thank each one of them personally! I even thank the spouses of military members. I know that they made sacrfices too!

    I'm truly humbled by those who have died to allow me and us to live here.

    Now it seems that the government has better things to do than to provide for our veterans. I am ashamed of the things that our government, the one fought for by us, has done!
  8. by   oramar
    I was recently enraged when I heard someone saying that they were thinking of suing our local goverment because it gave a few points extra to veterans on civil service exaim. Especially since the number of points given is pityfully small. I think there is a meaness in attitude developing towards vets that I have not seen since the Vietnam War. Perhaps it is because so few people now have anyone serving in the military. The apathy is not new but meaness has not been around for a while. Perhaps these things occur in cycles. The goverments need for people to serve in the military comes in cycles for different reasons. Promises are made, the reason for the promises fade, memory fades and the goverment begins to renege on those promises.
  9. by   alatta58
    Quote from night owl
    You would think that with all the money the government has, the VA system would be the least effected by the nursing shortage!!!!!
    I am a VA nurse and have been for 24 years. I've never seen it so bad as I have in the last few years. Our veterans deserve more than bare minimum care. They fought the front lines, had their arm and legs blown off, had their minds blown away, live every day with PTSD so that you and I can have freedom and live everyday in peace and harmony. The government has the resources to pay for the quality care that our veterans deserve, so I ask you, why is their a nursing shortage in the VA system??? It's called GREED for the almighty dollar. The bottom line is always about the money. You better believe that the directors of these hospitals and nursing homes are making top dollar and are paid thousands of dollars in bonus money to cut back even farther on costs. It's criminal. The government promised each and every veteran that they would take care of them. As far as I can see, the government is slapping them right in the face by not replacing nurses that that quit and NA's who are fed up with 20 pts. apiece each and everyday. The vets are getting everything BUT the best care that is deserving to them and yes, I blame yours and my Uncle Sam for that and nobody else...
    I can share her grief-I worked at VA until recently and had a ratios of 25:1 many times on the PM tour,with 2 nrsg.assts-95% of the patients of the total care acuity. Incredable! I needed a pair of Roller-Blades! And I am a vet so you can imagine the I felt when I had to administer this type of care.Nov 2 is coming...Mr. Bush and you will
    Last edit by alatta58 on Aug 27, '04 : Reason: typo error

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Dept. Of Veterans Affairs Nursing Hearing