July 11, 2012 --According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nursing represents the nation’s largest healthcare profession with more than 3.1 million nurses and 2.6 million licensed RNs. Being that nurses represent the majority of the workforce, they are often targeted as a way for hospitals to decrease their costs now that healthcare costs are increasing. Nursing, as a profession, can be very rewarding and challenging, however many problems exist and most are becoming worse due to lack of legislation to address these issues. Three big problems nursing is facing today are the hospital staffing crisis due to increased healthcare costs, meeting patients’ expectations, and the lack of respect towards nurses.
1. Hospital staffing crisis
The hospital staffing crisis , a long drawn out problem, is intensifying as healthcare costs are increasing. This problem may be worsening due to more hospital CEOs investing in advanced medical technologies and failing to pay attention to maintaining adequate staff levels. Corporate greed has seemed to have taken precedence over safe patient care as well. Chuck Idelson, a CNA representative, voiced this concern by telling In These Times, “The problems are systemic, primarily because the focus of the corporate giants that control most hospitals now is on profits, not on safe patient care.”
One solution that can help alleviate this problem is if other states follow California’s lead in adopting a Safe Staffing RN Ratios law. This is not an easy task -- it took California 12 years for the state to have this legislation approved. As for now, National Nurses United is working on implementing federal legislation to establish nationwide nurse-ratio guidelines.
2. Meeting patient expectations
In a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NPR and Harvard School of Public Health poll , one out of three patients who stayed in a hospital at least one night, reported that “nurses weren't available when needed or didn't respond quickly to requests for help." Meeting patient expectations is hard enough as it is and some people fear it may worsen as healthcare and the elderly population increases. They also worry that nurses will be stretched too thinly and may not be able to achieve the needs and demands for their patients. Currently, the Emergency Department is becoming too crowded due to blood tests and other diagnostic procedures that slow patient flow.
3. Lack of respect
Nursing can be a gratifying profession; however, nurses continue to experience lack of respect from their patients, doctors, administrators, and even from their coworkers. Medscape’s online survey early this year reported that 31.4 percent of the respondents interviewed identified "lack of respect from other healthcare providers/non-nurses" as being one of the most distressing job factors in 2011.”
Also, in an ANA 2011 Health and Safety Survey, physical assault and verbal abuse were shown to have gone down but the issue still remains to be a big concern. RNs in the survey reported that “on-the-job assault” was one of their top-three safety concerns. The survey reported that within a 12-month period, 11 percent of RNs were physically assaulted and 52 percent were either threatened or verbally abused. Many cases go unreported because some feel that this problem is just part of their job.
These are only three problems nursing is facing today. Many of the problems in nursing are due to the lack of legislation to address these issues. Because the healthcare industry is constantly evolving due to health reform, more problems will continue to emerge.
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