The US Senate heard testimony from the ANA, the Maryland Dept of Health, the AONE, the AHA and a College of Nursing Re: the Importance of Nurses & the impact of the Nursing Shortage.....
Opening Statement of Senator Barbara A. Mikulski http://www.senate.gov/~mikulski/pres...001213B45.html
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 13, 2001 CONTACT: Johanna Ramos-Boyer http://mikulski.senate.gov
202-224-4654 Opening Statement of Senator Barbara A. Mikulski
"The Nursing Shortage and its Impact on America's Health Care Delivery System" Subcommittee on Aging
"Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for calling this timely hearing on the nursing shortage. I also want to thank Dr. Georges Benjamin, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Chair of the Maryland Statewide Commission on the Crisis in Nursing, and Kathryn Hall, Executive Director of the Maryland Nurses Association, for sharing their expertise and testimony today.
This is not the first nursing shortage that I've seen, but I'm committed to finding real solutions so that it will be our last. Because if we don't address this crisis effectively, the future is likely to be even worse due to our aging population. Today, there are about 35 million Americans aged 65 and older. This number will double to about 70 million in 2030 and be an increasingly diverse population. Older individuals have more complex health care needs and often multiple conditions that require treatment simultaneously. This means that nurses and the care they provide will be even more important than they are today.
The impact of the nursing shortage on our aging population is compounded by the fact that our nursing workforce is also aging. Fifty percent of all working nurses will reach retirement age in 15 years. Maryland and many other states across this country are experiencing nursing shortages as more nurses retire, fewer people go into nursing, and the economy offers more opportunities for nurses and higher salaries than nursing. Maryland hospitals reported that, last year, it took 68 days to fill a registered nurse vacancy.
Today's shortage is causing great distress for patients. According to a new survey by the American Nurses Association, 75 percent of nurses surveyed feel the quality of nursing care at the facility in which they work has declined over the past two years. About half of the nurses surveyed feel "exhausted and discouraged" when they leave work, and over half of those surveyed would not recommend their profession to their children or their friends.
Nurses tell me that they feel undervalued, overworked, and underpaid. In this country in 1999, a nurse with 15 or more years of experience could expect to earn on average only about $7,000 more than a nurse with three years experience or less. I asked the Maryland Higher Education Commission if there were waiting lists in Maryland for nursing scholarships
or admission to nursing programs. I was not surprised to find that there are no waiting lists.
But nurses are truly the unsung heroes in health care. They are advocates, medical professionals, and healers who fight death and disease and bring compassion to the patients for whom they care. The care they give is high-tech, high-touch, and highly skilled. Nurses are at the bedside of premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit, they are assisting in the operating room during cardiac bypass surgery, they are riding snowmobiles to provide home health care to rural seniors, and they are helping nursing home residents manage complex medications.
Why are people not coming into nursing and why aren't they staying? Because while nurses have sophisticated training and education, they get skimpy and spartan pay and respect. We need more nurses, but we as a society must get behind our nurses. That means more than just more financial aid or bigger scholarships. And it definitely means more than collecting data about the problem. Getting behind our nurses means paying them what they deserve. Because the dedication and devotion shown by countless nurses doesn't pay the mortgage! And because the best way to recruit more nurses is by having a satisfied nursing workforce that reaches out to a new generation of women and men.
I was excited about the television series "Hopkins 24/7" on ABC last year. I was proud of the doctors, but the shows provided an incomplete picture of the health care provided in hospitals. It left out the nurses and other health care professionals who work around the clock to care for patients. That's why I'm so pleased that the Discovery Health Channel "discovered" nurses. I spoke to nursing groups last month to celebrate the launch of the "Nurses" television series on the Discovery Health Channel. It is similar to "Hopkins 24/7", only it's about nurses. I think this series will be a terrific tool to educate the American public about who nurses are and what they do. I thank the Discovery Health Channel and Johns Hopkins and for sharing with us clips from this series that we'll view shortly.
Today's hearing will shed light on the nursing shortage and the challenges it presents, but I hope it will also be an opportunity to talk about solutions in the short and long term. We must look at what nurses, hospitals and other facilities, nursing schools, states, Congress and the federal government can do to combat this crisis. I know that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle care deeply about this issue. I look forward to today's testimony and working on this important issue with the Chairman and my other colleagues. Thank you.
Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D. - Maryland) " Also....
"American Nurses Association Addresses Nursing Shortage at Senate Subcommittee Hearing
Washington, DC -- "America is experiencing a crisis in nurse staffing," along with "an unprecedented nursing shortage," Kathy Hall, MS, RN, executive director of the Maryland Nurses Association, told participants at a packed US Senate subcommittee hearing today.
Testifying on behalf of the American Nurses Association before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Aging, Hall noted, "Employers are having difficulty finding experienced RNs who are willing to work in health care facilities." Areas hardest hit include emergency room, critical care, labor and delivery, and long-term care units.
"One of the primary factors for nurse turnover is dissatisfaction with workload and staffing," Hall said, citing findings from ANA's Staffing Survey, the results of which were announced last week. Specifically, the survey found that 75 percent of respondents feel the quality of nursing care in their workplace has declined over the past two years. Nurses surveyed also say they have experienced increased patient care loads.
Another factor Hall cited for high nurse turnover is "the use of mandatory overtime as a staffing tool to cover staffing insufficiencies."
ANA's solutions to the nursing shortage include increasing funding for nurse loan repayment programs as well as the programs related to the Nurse Education Act (NEA). But, as Hall pointed out in her testimony, monetary solutions alone are not enough. "Improvements in the workplace environment, combined with aggressive and innovative recruitment efforts, are paramount.
"As a professional who has worked as a staff nurse, as well as a nurse administrator, I know that the current staffing problems are directly related to the reluctance of nurses to accept positions where they will not be supported by appropriate staff, [but will be] confronted by mandatory overtime, inappropriately rushed through patient-care activities, and unable to report unsafe practices," Hall added.
The Senate hearing also featured testimony from Dianne Anderson, MS, RN, president of the American Organization of Nurse Executives; Georges C. Benjamin, MD, secretary, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Linda Hodges, dean, College of Nursing, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; and Brandon Melton of Denver, CO, on behalf of the American Hospital Association.
Benjamin echoed Hall's remarks. "There are three problems," he noted. "Nurses are not coming into the profession. The ones who are there are not staying in, and those who are there are not happy."
Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), chairman of the subcommittee, led the hearing, which was designed to shed light on the national nursing shortage and its impact on the nation's health care delivery system, as well as the long-term implications of the projected shortage over the next decade. Presiding with him was Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who noted that "real solutions" are needed to tackle the "deep systemic issues that face the health of our nation." If not, she said, "Patient care will face the crisis" brought on by "the impact of an aging population, compounded by the aging of our nurses." The issue, she added is nurse "retention."
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), who noted that the nursing shortage is particularly acute in New York state, discussed issues related to short staffing, whistleblower protections, stagnant wage growth and mandatory overtime. "There is research that demonstrates...that nursing care determines patient outcomes," Clinton said.
Other subcommittee members attending the hearing included Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and John Edwards (D-NC) " http://www.ana.org/pressrel/2001/pr0214.htm