An Interesting Time to be a Nurse


Posted to Nursing, Nursing Jobs, Permanent Placement

The nursing profession is certainly never boring. Nurses are always expected to work miracles in the face of any and all obstacles, and most times we do.

Currently the Great Recession and the move to reform health care in the U.S. have impacted the nursing profession in many ways and will continue to do so for quite some time.

Hospitals and other health care facilities have long been impacted by the shortage of nurses, and now the economic factors are causing administrators to cut back on staffing.

Most nurses have weathered the seasonal call offs due to a low patient census and sometimes it’s nice to have a few unexpected days off, but when you’ve used up all of your personal time for these furloughs and face even more time off because of cutbacks, it isn’t fun anymore.

When you do work and are expected to give quality patient care to twice as many patients as you should have, that isn’t fun either. But administrators seem to expect nurses to work miracles under the worst of circumstances, and never ask nurses for an opinion on how to improve conditions and make the care more cost effective.

At the same time the nurses are expected to provide the quality of care needed to ensure reimbursement isn’t affected such as preventing decubs, pneumonia, UTIs and DVTs that are on Medicare’s Do Not Pay list.

A recent study of infection-control specialists published June 9 on Modern pointed out that education about hospital-acquired infections has been significantly reduced due to budget cuts.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) surveyed 1943 members in March 2009. Forty four percent of the responders said that they attend fewer meetings at their hospitals now because of cutbacks, and 42% said they no longer conduct as many walking rounds in their facilities. Hiring freezes and staffing cuts have caused them to spend more time on other duties than focusing on prevention.

In the long run, APIC thinks that hospitals will spend more money treating these infections than they would have in preventing them in the first place, but administrators haven’t figured that out yet. Again they don’t talk to or listen to the nurses.

Meanwhile health care reform measures will (hopefully) make it possible for many more Americans to have health insurance coverage and to afford health care. On the other hand, there is a serious shortage of health care workers, most notably nurses. This shortage is growing and will reach crisis levels in the next few years. Increasing the number of potential patients who can afford health care is going to make the demand for nurses even greater.

Anne Zieger from said a few weeks ago that from her observations, “nursing unions are on the verge of revolution.” Two of the most powerful nursing unions, CNA/NNOC and SEIU have even set aside their fierce rivalry to work together on the issue of health care reform. The two issues at the forefront are mandated nurse-to-patient ratios and required overtime.

It certainly is an interesting time to be a nurse.

©2009 by All Rights Reserved. By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of four books including The Everything New Nurse Book. She is also the owner/author of