Nursing Shortage I decided that I would think outside the box and turn to an ancient journalistic technique before commenting on the nursing shortage.
So after reading the relevant studies and consulting all the experts, I went the extra mile and talked to an actual nurse, a woman I know named Sue who is in her early 50s.
Sue works in the emergency room of a large urban hospital. She cautions me that her job is not as stressful as that some nurses face; most of the time, she doesn’t work with the people who come in with major gunshot wounds. It is, however, hard enough.
She works a lot of midnights and weekends, but she likes the job because she can also take off days off when her teenage daughters need her to be there. “It’s not that bad a job as long as your back holds out,” she told me. Nurses are on their feet virtually all the time.
I wanted to know what she thought about the proposal before the legislature to allow nurses who are not licensed in Michigan to practice here. She hadn’t heard anything about it.
That’s not surprising; between her job, her husband and daughters, and caring for two elderly parents, she somehow doesn’t have time to keep up on all the latest suggested legislation. Off the cuff, she didn’t think the proposal was a bad idea. She also didn’t think it would do much good.
For some reason, she doubted that Michigan has hordes of nurses milling around who aren’t working because they are licensed in other states. “This is really all about the insurance companies,” she said. “If you have more nurses, they can deliver better patient care. “But if you have more nurses, the system doesn’t make as much money.” Jim McFarlin, a spokesman for Wayne State University’s nursing school, offers another reason. “We have to turn students away because we don’t have enough qualified faculty,” he said.
Whatever the reason, here’s what the statistics say. Michigan has a shortage of something like 2,500 nurses now. But many of these nurses are getting to a point in life when their backs are giving out. We are going to see escalating retirements. If present trends continue, we’ll be short 7,000 nurses in four years and 18,000 nurses in 2015, just when the oldest baby boomers are about to turn three score and ten. This worries me for selfish reasons.
Even if the Michigan legislature allows nurses to give advice over the Internet, it is pretty hard to get a sponge bath that way.
Suddenly, I had a glimpse of the future, and it involved my generation being cared for by a phalanx of rough-handed, laid-off former auto workers. So let me say this to whoever is making policy for the state. There has got to be a better way.