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

The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different?

July 23, 2004

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

Dear Editor:

I write in response to the topic of the Nursing Shortage. I believe it is time to look at the big picture regarding this shortage. The problem is not that we are failing to graduate enough professionals, but rather that we are not taking care of our professional nurses who are currently licensed and are out there practicing nursing under the most difficult of circumstances.

I find it rather interesting that so often we see PhD or Dr. behind the names of individuals who are speaking for our profession. I ask, "Where are the perspectives of front-line, working RN's, those struggling in the trenches?"

I have been a front-line, working RN for almost 30 years and share here my perspective. What I see now is:

  1. Bonus offerings that require you to sign to work 40 hours a week - nice, but challenging for a mom concerned with the well-being of her offspring

  2. Bonus offerings that require you to work off-shift for an extended period of time - nice, but challenging for the nurse who wants normal or semi-normal hours
  3. Patients who require far more skill and time than the nurse can give today - hence patients suffer, and nurses go home vastly frustrated
  4. Patients who need time to talk about their new cancers or life-threatening diagnoses, but the nurse cannot do so because call bells are going wild and patients need their medications or personal needs met.

I am compelled to ask: Where are the part-time shifts with bonuses pro-rated to better meet the needs of a primarily female profession? Must it be all or nothing? Where is the consideration for families? These questions must be addressed if future generations of nurses are to remain in the profession we hold so dear.

I love nursing, but in the past 5-8 years it has become a disgusting job. I cannot meet the needs of those I care for due to the workload forced upon me. It breaks my emotional conscience to leave a patient crying in despair because I hear so many other call lights going off. I love caring for people, but administration will not let me do the job I need to do to meet the needs of those who depend on me.

Should I leave nursing? Yes, I will, I have, because I can no longer live with this frustration. I have gone on to become a Master's-prepared Nurse Practitioner hoping that giving the patient better control over their health before they become ill will be more satisfying. Yet I ask: Why must my nursing career of caring evolve to this? How can I foster good feelings about nursing when I have been bruised and battered by the business mechanisms of health care? Scarier yet is what do I have to look forward to when I need health care in the future?

Unfortunately the scenario continues; we feed dollars into educational programs, scholarships, and internships, but do not address why so many nurses are leaving after they get a taste of this discouraging environment.

Let's all be willing to really look at the bigger problem in nursing: It is not that we are failing to graduate enough professional nurses, but rather that we are not taking care of our professional nurses currently on the front line, those who are already licensed and practicing.

Dr. Kathryn M. Cacic, RN, CCRN, MS
Nurse Practitioner