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Let Nurses Do More Nursing, Panel Urges

Associated Press

The solution to the nursing shortage plaguing many U.S. hospitals lies not just in higher pay, but also in letting nurses be nurses again, a federal commission said today.

A major problem, the commission report said, is that hospitals have laid off 100,000 non-nursing employees over the last five years at the same time that sicker patients are being hospitalized.

Outpatient treatment is now more likely for the less seriously ill, leaving hospitals with the most difficult cases. Nurses, meanwhile, find themselves burdened with increased non-nursing duties, the report said.

The panel said nurses not only are being asked to render more care typically carried out by higher-paid personnel, such as respiratory and physical therapists, but also are required to do more paper work previously handled by support staffs that have been reduced to hold down hospital payrolls.

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Warning on Quality

“The institutions themselves have to change the very way they allow nursing to be practiced,” said Carolyne K. Davis of Cleveland, head of the advisory commission.

While the report did not say that a shortage of registered nurses has resulted in inadequate health care in the nation’s hospitals, its executive director cautioned that that situation could be just around the corner.

“Unless this shortage is addressed, I can anticipate there might be some impact on the quality of care,” said Lillian K. Gibbons, the federal official designated to coordinate the panel’s work.

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“With increasing frequency, nurses provide services that should be carried out by other health care workers,” said the 19-member commission.


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