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

The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different?

September 17, 2001

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

Dear Editor:

I have been reading the OJIN articles concerning the nursing shortage and wish to thank you for providing such informative reading material on your website. I have been a nurse for 16 years in many different settings. Presently, I am employed by a large rural hospital and work the night shift (7 PM - 7 AM) on a locked, geriatric psychiatric unit. We are expected to grind out mountains of paperwork each night; and while this is being performed, we discuss nursing issues. I would like to share what I'm hearing the nurses in my hospital say as they speculate on the nursing shortage and why it is occurring. I will list the three most prevalent reasons why NURSES in my hospital feel that a shortage in the near future is inevitable:

  1. Reason Number One: Nurses are not respected
    • Not by the public as much as even a few years ago
    • Not by the administration that relies so completely upon their services
    • Not by doctors who do not view nurses as professionals
    • Not by co-workers who continue to engage in bickering between shifts, tattling to employers, and displaying rude behavior to new nurses (new to the unit or new grads)

  2. Reason Number Two: Nurses receive unreasonable assignments, given resources provided
    • Mandatory Overtime - for the benefit of others perhaps, but at the expense of the nurse
    • On Demand Floating - many times with no prior notice
    • Short staffing - of course we could all go on and on about this one issue alone
    • Duplicate paperwork - what that used to take two hours now entails five hours
    • Low-Tech Equipment - here, in the modern age of computers, nurses are still scratching out by hand the volumes of material demanded of them
    • Multi-Tasking - one nurse typically must act as charge nurse, admission and discharge coordinator, patient care provider, secretary and (on my unit) a screener because it is a locked unit so we must screen everyone who comes to the unit and let them in manually

  3. Reason Number Three: Money
    • Money isn't everything. We hear this constantly! Yet in what other profession is one asked to forego monetary incentives? Nurses usually do not receive bonuses (we earn them for our managers who cut staff and thereby cut costs and receive a percentage of the amount saved). Nurses are expected by the general public to be "beyond" the need for increasing income. Although no one would expect a car salesman to forego their commission because it feels so good to help people obtain adequate and safe transportation, this attitude still prevails towards nurses.

    Most nurses I have spoken to believe that a real nursing shortage is the only viable means of changing this situation. Although the public may not value nurses any more during a shortage than before a shortage, they may campaign for increases in nurse staffing in order to have their health care needs met. However, as soon as this need is met, will nurses again be ignored?

    I have touched upon only a few of the real reasons why nurses are not encouraging their friends and families to enter the nursing profession. When I am respected, assigned so as to have a chance to perform my job even a minimal level of competency, and compensated fairly, I will advocate nursing as a career. Meanwhile, I remain one more voice crying in the wilderness - who will hear me?

S. Line, RN
Northwest Arkansas