When you're in the hospital, it's likely to be a registered nurse like Cindy Webb who will spend the most time caring for you. But with the nursing shortage, there are fewer R.N.'s like her around. So how is the same, safe level of patient care maintained with fewer people? "We still take good care of our patients but we have to work over 40 hours a week," says Webb.
When nurses have to work more hours and now deal with patients who are sicker, it makes for an environment that concerns registered nurse Debbie Hine. "It's discouraging. I've been a nurse for 25 years and I know the quality of care my patients deserve. But sometimes you can't give that quality because we don't have as many people as we used to. We still do the medical things, but there's no time for bedside activities like consoling," says Hine.
Jeannie Fadler is Vice-president of patient services at St. Francis Medical Center. She says the hospital has tried some re-arranging. "Medical centers are getting creative. We look at what activities are required to be a nurse and that nurse's practice and how some could be done by other staff, "says Fadler.
But the nursing shortage isn't just affecting hospitals. Places like nursing homes, schools and other health care facilities are also reporting a crunch when it comes to nurses. "This is not just a hospital problem. This is a social problem, a community problem and we've got to find a way for care givers to care for their patients," says Karen Hendrickson, chief nursing officer at Southeast Missouri Hospital.