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Letter to the Editor on "The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different?"

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December 23, 2004

in response by Thorson to topic The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different? (Jan. 31, 2001)

Dear Editor:

I write to share my thoughts on the topic of the Nursing Shortage. I would say, "Don't worry about the nursing shortage - soon no one will want a nurse!"

As I write, unlicensed personnel are allowed to perform tasks that in former days only a nurse could perform. Non-licensed personnel are inserting IV's, giving medications (IM, PO, IV), performing arterial line draws, adjusting settings on the ventilators, and doing dressing changes. You know, the fun stuff that nurses are uniquely prepared to do - what we call patient care.

I predict there won't always be a nursing shortage because soon institutions will conclude there is no reason to pay for a nurse when an unlicensed person can do the same task for less money. A paramedic told me today that some states are thinking of licensing paramedics. If this happens, what will keep our young people from training as paramedics, rather than entering nursing programs, when paramedic training is much shorter, less costly, and allows a person to do so many traditionally nursing tasks?

To stem this tide, all nurses must become more politically involved, share with their legislators and the general public why registered nurses (RNs) are still needed to perform some tasks, and explain how much more an RN can do in terms of counseling the disturbed, helping family members care for a loved one at home, and promoting a healthy life style. All these activities can help to decrease health care costs. We need to help the world understand that the added value of the RN is worth the initial cost.

Vicki Thorson, RN
Winneshiek County Memorial Hospital
Decorah, Iowa