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

The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different?

April 30, 2004

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

Dear Editor:

It is with deep concern for, and commitment to, nursing and the care of our patients that I point out the need for further protection of health care providers. Here in Canada, the Alberta government has passed the Protection of Persons in Care Act which mandates consideration of any complaint made by a patient, staff member, or layperson regarding any abuse, misconduct, unprofessional, or incompetent action affecting patients in any setting. As caregivers we certainly acknowledge the importance of a regulated health care system which looks out for the best interests of our patients. However, this regulation also increases the risk of our licenses being jeopardized by someone at large making an accusation or complaint regarding a situation that might be beyond our control. This possibility becomes more likely as both the acuity of our patients and health care cost-cutting measures, which result in inadequate staffing levels, higher workloads, and general "burn-out," increase. These situations become even more dangerous as nurses are moved from one unit or site to a different unit or site with minimal orientation to this new and different type of care, and their expressed concerns about patient safety go unheeded. It appears to me that more complaints are filed daily regarding our nursing staff. I believe it would be much more useful if lawmakers and employers worked to address the challenges of inadequate staffing and higher workloads, rather than to develop more rules and threats of legal action against health care employees. Addressing the reasons for unprofessional or incompetent actions, instead of introducing more stringent acts governing our ability to work, might enable health care providers to provide more competent and compassionate care. This in turn might stem the tide of health care providers leaving their professions and decrease the excessively high workloads that may contribute to incompetent and/or unprofessional conduct.

Carol Carbol, LPN
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada