Nurses Week 2009 How's It Going Nurses?
So once again, Nurses week rolls around. Only this Nurses’ Week, I gather things aren’t too great. I’d love people to write in and tell me if their hospitals have cut back on or completely eliminated Nurses’ Week celebrations because of the economic crisis. Please post and let me know. I’d also like to know if hospitals are cutting back on nursing positions, laying people off, or not filling vacancies. I’ve heard that the nursing shortage of just yesterday has miraculously been solved today. That hospitals don’t have vacancies or openings. That they can get plenty of nurses. So what I want to know is, how are things at your place of work? Is the shortage over and how do we measure that? By the amount of vacancies a hospital posts? Or by the amount of work a nurse is asked to shoulder? Is your workload suddenly more manageable on the floors and in the clinics and in home care? Do you have loads of help from other nurses because suddenly — no shortage — they have more time and can help you? Are patient falls, UIT’s CVC line infections decreasing because there’s more nursing care available because, after all , there ‘s no shortage? If you’re a manager, do you have three units to manage or one? If you’re a manager to you have time to actually learn what’s going on on your unit? This is how we should measure whether or not the shortage is over.
I think we need to make a distinction between a shortage of nurses and a shortage of nursing care. With the former, not enough people want to be nurses and not enough will stay in the workplace delivering direct care. That means if you want to hire more nurses and provide more nursing care, you can’t because there just aren’t enough bodies with educated brains to do the work. That’s a shortage of nurses. A shortage of nursing care, on the other hand, means that hospitals could deem that they have hired sufficient nurses but the reality is that those nurses cannot possibly deliver the high quality care each and every patient deserves. That’s because there are not enough bodies with enough educated brains to deliver the intensity of care patients with skyrocketing acuity need today. If you make this distinction, you can easily have a situation in which there is no “shortage of nurses,” but there is a “shortage of nursing care.”
I fear this is precisely the situation we are in today and that this shortage of nursing care will soon produce another shortage of nurses. Why? Because the babyboomers are poised to hit the hospital bed big time — with not just one disease but mulitple co-morbidities Then we have a whole cohort of nurses –babyboomers themselves –poised to retire. These nurses will stop giving care and start needing it themselves. If, however, nurses are being laid off or cannot get hired, well then, guess what, the word gets out and then people don’t enroll in nursing school. So then, when the patient demand increases, the older nurses have retired, and the economy has improved and suddenly hospitals and policy makers and politicians rediscover nurses and nursing, well, we won’t have enough students in the pipeline to produce the nurses we need.
The point here is the society has to begin to understand that there is no faucet whose spigot can be turned on to instantly provide a supply of nurses when we need it and turned off when employers and our society deems, sorry we can’t afford it, we don’t need it. To produce a compentent nurse — and I mean competent not expert, takes at least six to nine years. To produce an expert nurse takes more. Wouldn’t it be nice if just for one nurses’ week we celebrated nurses competence and expertise instead of how sweet and kind and compassionate they are? Wouldn’t it be nice if just for one Nurses’ Week we demonstrated that we understand that kindness and compassion depend not on the heart but actually on the brain and how educated and experienced it is?