Norbert, oramar, fegus and Nurse Ratched, you all have excellent points.
Who does own this problem?--in my opinion, hospital administrators, nursing administrators, nurses and the consumers.
Hospitals are no longer there to be a service to the community--they are there to make a profit, even many of the so-called non-profit hospitals. As a result, hospital and nursing administrators no longer see patients as people we are all there to serve, they are now "economic units" that we must process as quickly and cheaply as possible. In such an environment the main work of nursing, caring, is not valued.
Most, not all, but most, administrators (nursing and non-nursing) have no respect for the work that nurses do, so they think that replacing nurses with unlicensed personnel to save money is a "good thing"-this improves their bottom line, and ensures their continued high pay and bonuses.
The individual nurses is powerless in this situation. If only nurses could stick together as a cohesive group to support each other and to advocate for patients.
Consumers - is is time for consumers to wake up and realize that the day will come when EVERYONE will need a nurse, and what if there is no nurse there??? As it is now, most lay people think anyone they see in the hospital other than their doctor - lab tech, housekeeper, etc, is a "nurse". Consumer groups, similar to those who have fought for health concerns such as smoking in public places, need to advocate in the media and legislature for the presence of an adequate number of licensed nurses in health care facilities.
What is the solution to this problem? I honestly wish I knew.