Jump to content

Editorial:Nurses suffer through low staff, salaries for joy of life


Came across this Editorial out of Texas and thought I would share it with you guys.


Sun, August 19, 2001

Holding out for miracles

Nurses suffer through low staff, salaries for joy of life


Has this ever happened to you? You are a patient at a hospital and have pressed your call button until your finger hurts and you begin to feel that you are all alone on the floor. Finally a nurse arrives, listens and then hurries from the room.

After what seems to be an inordinate length of time, she returns with the pain pill you asked for. You are frustrated at what you rightly see as poor service, but you are not alone; your nurse is as frustrated if not more so than you are. He or she has been informed that instead of the normal patient load of five to six patients, that she has 10 to care for due to a shortage of nurses on today's schedule, far too many to provide the personal attention each patient deserves and that your nurse

wants to give to those who depend on her.

Whose fault is this shortage of nurses? I believe that management, the high cost of equipment and pharmaceuticals are to blame as well as the low salaries paid to nurses in this area. The classifieds on any given Sunday has dozens of ads for nurses, and it would look to the reader that facilities are actively searching for nurses to fill these shortages. Yet, they do not want to pay a wage competitive with the Metroplex, Oklahoma City and even Denton.

Of course, the argument is that these areas are too far from Wichita Falls to be of concern, but nurses from this area drive to these areas, work two 16-hour shifts, and make more than what they would make at local hospitals for a full week. The salary for LVNs in the Metroplex averages $14 an hour or more, and RNs make as much as $25 to $30 an hour, $10 to $15 an hour more than paid for RNs in hospitals in North Texas.

However, lest you feel that nurses are mercenaries and only care about money, let me put your mind at rest. Men and women do not go into nursing to get rich or have a cushy job; they go into it because they have compassion for humankind and a burning desire to ease the suffering of others. They go into a field that calls for personal sacrifice, compassion and courage.

The jobs nurses hold are as varied as the illness of the people in the world. They serve in ICUs, surgery suites, cancer wards and pediatrics. They care for those who have been shunned by society for the illnesses that they have.

Many care for those who have emotional and psychological needs. Some work in doctor'soffices, hospitals, assisted living care facilities, and government agencies. Sometimes, because of the type of work they perform, some are not looked on as "real nurses," but every nurse you come in contact with is a REAL nurse. If you have any doubt, look at what they do.

The nurse sees man's inhumanity to man at its worse. They see the small child that has been broken by the very people who are supposed to protect them brought to the emergency room, and then they must put aside the understandable desire to see the abuser executed and communicate with them on a professional level.

They sit at the side of the bed of a young mother who has cancer and is preparing to crossover the great river of life, leaving a husband and three small children behind, or tries to comfort the parents of a child who has just been diagnosed with leukemia.

Their compassion is put to the test when they see the family of four that arrived in the emergency room dead on arrival after a fatal encounter on a straight stretch of highway with a drunken driver. They cover the mangled bodies and then go into the next cubicle to treat the driver who escaped with a sprained wrist.

However it is not all sadness and apparent futility. These men and women who are representatives of Florence Nightingale, the lady of the lamp, have many joys that sustain them in the times of short staffing and administrative changes.

They see the miracle of the gift of life in the delivery room. The feeling of joy as a fever breaks signaling the end of a near-fatal infection. There is the elation when the broken are healed, the seeing the smile on the face of a person who has been at death's door but has made that miraculous recovery that cannot be medically explained.

There is the joy that comes in the middle of one of those shifts when they are ready to throw in the towel, until a patient tells them that they would not have been able to make it if it hadn't been for the nurse's support. It all becomes worthwhile when a family member comes to you with tears in their eyes and says thanks.

Being a nurse is a rewarding experience. I know because I am one.

In conclusion, when you push your button until you get a blister, try to remember that your nurse is just as frustrated as you are, but is dedicated to providing you the best and most compassionate care possible. To the management of North Texas hospitals, it is time to bring the level of pay up to keep the Florence Nightingales you have and to recruit new ones.

Tony Collins' column appears in this space every other Sunday. Collins, a community member of the Times Record News editorial board, can be reached by writing to Tony Collins,, Editorial Page, P.O. Box 120, Wichita Falls, TX 76307.

pop over to: http://www.calnurse.org , scroll down to news and read article callled "Survey says hospital battling staffing problems" Reuters

Wednesday August 15 7:01 AM ET

Survey Says Hospitals Battling Staffing Problems

By William Borden

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hospitals in the United States are struggling to keep qualified staff, with 90 percent in a survey saying that staffing shortages will continue to be a challenge for the next three to five years, a survey said.

The nursing shortage is well publicized, but hospitals have had difficulty filling a variety of positions, the survey from the Unifi Networks division of consultant PriceWaterhouseCoopers said.

``I think what struck us is the lack of proactivity or creativity in recruiting,'' said Todd McGovern, a director of Unifi Network's compensation practice. ``Other organizations, particularly smaller organizations, seem to be more nimble.''

Hospitals did not have to contend with the dot.com revolution raiding their talent, unlike many other industries, McGovern said. Other industries responded to the Internet by developing innovative approaches in recruiting people, he said.

In the case of keeping nurses, many hospitals are caught in a vicious cycle of losing nurses for higher paying jobs with better working conditions.

This forces some hospitals to hire temporary nurses, which can be two or three times more expensive than having a full-time staffer, McGovern said.

``If you have this vicious cycle, you're losing people and paying replacement costs,'' he said.

The replacement of one nurse can cost 50 to 150 times his or her annual salary, McGovern said. While many nonprofit hospitals are struggling financially, they have ``become penny wise, but pound foolish'' in their approach to cutting costs with staffing.

The conservative estimate of employee turnover costs at the hospital systems surveyed was between $14 million to $27 million per year, according to Unifi's survey of 20 healthcare networks covering 242 hospitals.

``Nurses will leave a job for a couple dollars more an hour,'' McGovern said. ``It may be better to pay them a few more dollars, since it may be cheaper in the long run.''

Hospitals could avoid this quandary by raising base pay in the first place, making it easier to keep the nurses, McGovern said. By retaining nurses, it also makes it easier to give them flexible schedules.

While compensation is a top priority, education opportunities and flexibility are other top priorities for retaining employees, McGovern said.

McGovern said that the survey found that hospitals are not effectively advertising for positions and are not using referral or retention bonuses effectively.

About 45 percent of hospital chains in the survey do not even use the Internet in recruiting, despite the relatively low costs. McGovern noted that ``health care systems have not been historically technologically savvy.''

``They may have world class technology in treating disease, but they may not have the same level of sophistication in support areas,'' McGovern said.

I appreciate Karen posting this article. It shows that studies are being done. They are coming up with findings that echo what nurses are saying on this board.

This topic is now closed to further replies.