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With nurse shortage looming, America needs shot in the arm
Question of the Day
“The bottom line is, it’s not like we could get by with less faculty teaching the same number of students. We still always have to have [a certain] ratio in the clinical settings. We can have a large number of students in the big lectures, but that’s only a portion of nursing education. And that’s where I have clinical faculty that I’ve had to let go in order to sustain my budget, and once I let them go I have to reduce my number of students,” Ms. Swanson said.
“I felt I could decrease the quantity of students, but I would not compromise the quality of our education program,” Ms. Swanson added. UNC-Chapel Hill’s nursing program accepted 258 out of 551 “qualified” applicants in 2011.
Joanne Spetz, an associate professor at the University of California at San Francisco and a specialist in health economics, said she feared that the lull in the nursing shortage could produce a false sense of security among policymakers and legislators.
“My worry is that because of our current economic conditions, the legislature will say, ‘Oh, we’re done with the shortage and we’re going to pull all this money back out of nursing programs.’ Then we’ve lost all our progress.”
She added, “If we don’t take our eyes off the ball, then the shortage may not resume with the kind of ferocity that it had before. But if we do allow the current economic situation to influence our decisions, then we’re going to be in a position where the shortage will come back really strong.”
UNC’s Ms. Swanson stressed the importance of funding more nurses to go for higher education and giving nursing school faculty members competitive wages. She also said raising wages would not be helpful in this situation because nurses already get paid a “decent amount.”
“Nurses already get paid an amount that reflects the important work they do, and getting people to want to be nurses is not the problem. Plenty of people still want to be nurses,” Ms. Swanson said.
Ms. Haller of Johns Hopkins said the shortage will have disastrous effects without more trained nurses.
“When we don’t have enough nurses, we close beds. There’s less access to health care for the public. We can’t put a patient in a hospital bed if we don’t have the nurses to take care of him,” Ms. Haller said. “[That will] not be a good situation for the public to be in.”
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By Andrew P. Napolitano
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