"Nursing is the best-kept career secret in this country"

  1. From healthleaders.com March 2002 magazine:

    Health Leaders Speak Out
    Colleen Conway-Welch on the Nursing Shortage

    Nursing as a profession has not done a good job of explaining everything we do to the public. One of the best ways to address the shortage is to get the information out there-that nursing is the best-kept career secret in this country. The Department of Labor says you change careers twice, and jobs at least five times, in your lifetime. You can do all of that within nursing-with one license. My first job was in labor and delivery. In subsequent jobs, I ran an emergency room, gave test questions for achievement exams with the National League for Nursing Testing, and eventually taught. No other career offers you all of those opportunities on the same license.

    I think we also need to focus on work redesign and creating better partnerships between nursing schools and nursing services. In terms of redesign we still work in hospitals designed 50 years ago. The healthcare industry is way behind banking and transportation when it comes to using computers and informatics to cut down on manual labor.

    Nursing schools and nursing services also need to collaborate and offer work-study programs to engage students in patient care in more meaningful ways. Up until recently, these two areas were separate enterprises. At Vanderbilt we are starting to offer programs where beginning students can be nurse's aides. This helps the hospital and gives students firsthand experience with certain techniques. Nationwide, we are seeing new models where the deans of schools of nursing and the chief nursing officers are joined at the hip in terms of trying to support each other. That is a very positive sign. At Vanderbilt, we have about 40 community-based practices where nursing faculty work with physicians in both primary and specialty care. Nurses are the glue that holds the healthcare system together. We better figure out how to get them and keep them in nursing."

    Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., C.N.M., has served as professor and dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing since 1984. Before joining the Vanderbilt faculty, Conway-Welch was a professor of nursing and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver. Earlier in her career, she was a staff/charge nurse at Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu. Conway-Welch received her doctorate in nursing from New York University in 1973.
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  3. by   nightingale

    This is a poor title of what this article is about. One brief remark in the beginning of the article talks about how good it is to be able to change jobs within one career or license. Not to be too sarcastic, but I could do that in waitressing, cash register work, or secretary.


    The healthcare industry is way behind banking and transportation when it comes to using computers and informatics to cut down on manual labor.

    Geech I would like to see this help too. Instead what I see on the hospital unit is computers replacing some paper.. i.e. pyxis and computer charting. It does not help me with the physical labor or work for a patient; I do not see how it could aide that but maybe I am missing something.

  4. by   oramar
    People who spend most of the career behind a desk are always glad to tell everyone what a great job they got. The fact is there is not a shortage of nurses who want to do desk jobs or anything away from bedside. My experience is that there are ten applicants for every postition away from bedside. THE PROBLEM is that the number of patients in acute care and LTC settings increases everyday while the number of people inclined to care for them shrinks. The problem is at the bedside.
  5. by   eldernurse
    If there was enough time to CARE for the patients and not just hurry up and do manual labor faster, faster, faster all the time, if nurse to patient ratios were better, more people would come into nursing. It isn't wiping behinds that is the problem. It is how many can you wipe in 30 seconds or less that is the problem.

    Watch a road crew. They get paid about as much (sometimes more) than a nurse. They are not constantly pushed to work at break-neck speed to get the job done faster, faster, faster. They take a lunch break. They get to go to the port-a-john.

    Watch fire-fighters. They are usually doing things around the fire station or even sleeping, waiting for the next fire. When the fire comes, they jump into action working faster, harder, faster. Nurses work like that every second of the day. 40 plus hours a week. Many shifts we get no lunch, no bathroom break. No wonder no one wants to stay at the bedside.

    Do you want a tired fire-fighter coming to put out the fire in your house? Do you want an exhausted nurse making life and death decisions about your family member?

    This is the hardest concept for most people to understand and it is hard for me to get it across in words.

    And don't nail me to a cross about fire-fighters or road crews. I only mean that hospital administrators who sit behind cozy desks don't know a darn about what we as bedside nurses go through. They want more bang for their buck, but the bang may come in the form of no more bedside nurses.
  6. by   askater11
    I would work more if we were staffed better...and treated better. And treated one another better. But until than I'm working infrequently. I'm an excellent nurse they're losing.

    I agree the nurse's are out there....it's just hard working in the condition's laid out to us.
  7. by   135ctv
    Originally posted by oramar
    People who spend most of the career behind a desk are always glad to tell everyone what a great job they got.
    I agree with this. For some reason, society places a higher value on people who sit behind a desk than on those who use their hands. As someone who left a high-paying desk job (and took a 75% pay cut) to become a CNA, I have seen this view among my former co-workers. There was also a time, right after college, that I also believed this.

    In the last year I've learned that, if you want to impress someone with your job title, this is not the field to be in. You have to want to do it for other reasons. After sitting at a desk for so many years, I welcome the ability to move around during the day and I enjoy the interaction I have with people. At my age and at this point in my life, I'm not out to impress people with my job title. As long as I'm doing something that I feel is important, it makes me happy and I can pay my bills, I'm satisfied.

    Not everyone will agree with this (and some nurses I've interviewed with even questioned my sanity in making the career switch). The reality is, that many people are conditioned to believe that a desk job equates with advancement or importance.
  8. by   eldernurse
    A good and dedicated CNA is worth a million dollars to an overworked nurse.
  9. by   Jas honey
    i read parts of that article to my husband, who is a career counselor-type-person, and his first remark (regarding the difference in road crews, firefighters and nurses) was "it has got to be a gender thing"....i think thats an interesting point....female-driven careers often suffer like nursing is, and have no real control over what happens, (we report to mostly male doctors, most administrators are male, etc) and male-driven careers seem to say what they want and get the demands met. women have to fight so much more for so much less....I AM SPEAKING IN GENERAL.....i am not trying to bash men, just trying (and maybe not very welll) to make a distinction about the gender roles that have become an institution in our society.
  10. by   oramar
    Yes Jas Honey, the fact that nursing has been traditionally a female dominated profession had a lot to do with the opression we have all suffered. However, there are other reason. Since most hospitals had a vested financial interest in keeping us in a mushroom state(you know in the dark and payed SH-t) I think they conspired to keep us down. Male, female white or black or purple they controlled cost off our backs for a century.