It's not the greatest idea put forth by one person that gets results, it's the simplest idea that many agree on....thus, we are all responsible for raising the public consciousness about our profession and this dangerous shortage.
To that end, I wrote a letter to the editor in response to a an article on recruitment bonuses. (They did a nice job of editing too, by the way; here, the teacher shortage is covered very well, but the nursing shortage? no one knows diddly, and no one cares.)
Conditions that chase nurses away
Re: Nursing shortage leads to cutthroat recruiting, June 9.
Instead of sign-on bonuses, why don't hospitals get to the root of the problem and offer realistic solutions? Many nurses are of the opinion that there is no nursing shortage. But because of poor working conditions and salaries, many nurses have left the bedside and are working in other areas of nursing. Briefly, here are the things that chased nurses away from where they're needed most:
1. Salaries (especially in Florida) are terrible for nurses, though the cost of living is high.
2. High patient-nurse ratios are dangerous to patients. Nurses don't want to harm their patients or lose their license to practice, so they "vote with their feet" by leaving the bedside.
3. Some hospitals actually make nurses stay overtime or work shifts they weren't hired for. It's exhausting and dangerous. An exhausted nurse can make mistakes that can hurt or kill the patient, in addition to loss of licensure and having to live with tremendous guilt.
4. Nursing has become very specialized. Some hospitals make nurses float to units they do not have adequate training in. For instance, a nurse specializing in medical-surgical should not be floated to labor and delivery and vice versa. Again, patient safety is at stake.
5. Some hospitals pay agency nurses twice the salary that staff nurses get. So why should a nurse stay on staff? For far too long, nurses have been the victims in the cost-cutting wars, and have been made to feel that they are wrong if they demand a decent salary. Facilities continually whine that they can't afford to pay better. Yet units in hospitals all over the nation are being forced to close temporarily because of short-staffing nurses. So how much fiscal sense does it make to lose millions in revenue over a few thousand dollars more per nurse?
6. Nurses as professionals aren't respected. Part of this is because the general public has no idea what nurses do. Nursing is a very demanding profession. Unlike teachers, we work all the holidays, all the shifts, year-round, and in some dangerous conditions.
Nurses are legally and morally responsible for the total care of their patients. Facility policy may be detrimental, the doctor might not care, but it's our job to get that patient effective, timely, appropriate care.
This is not about individual facilities; this is a profession-wide problem. But it can be rectified with a couple of simple actions. One is to raise our pay. I challenge hospitals and nursing homes in the area to raise their base salaries for nurses to $4 more an hour and offer attractive benefits and cost of living adjustments. Then watch the "shortage" disappear.
Jun 18, '02
I may've done this a little backwards, but I found the article that I was responding to after it was published in our local paper:
Last edit by Sleepyeyes on Jun 18, '02
Jun 18, '02
Great letter. I think that you're right on target there!
I've tried the link to the article 3 times...it shows a listing of all nursing discussion threads. Repost, perhaps?
Jun 18, '02
I agree...Sleepyeyes...you have totally put your finger dead center to the crust of the problem..
Jun 18, '02
Sorry about that; you want the thread titled "Nurse Shortage Causes Bidding War" which our local newspaper used, and to which I responded. The link should work now...
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