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In praise of a national treasure: American nurses

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This page last updated on or about 9-26-06
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Underpaid, overworked, under-appreciated, America’s nurses are desperately needed at one time or another by all of us, from the President to the homeless wandering our streets.

Much like your doctor, your nurse can often make the difference between life and death, recovery or relapse, future sickness or health.

My own elderly parents have been in and out of hospitals quite often the last ten years or so. Sometimes requiring extraordinary care from the hospital's nursing staff.

Yes, I appreciate the doctors too. But American doctors are usually compensated quite handsomely for their work (much better than the doctors of most other countries), even while usually putting in far less work hours than the nurses who provide the bulk of patient care, plus do much or all patient prep for surgery and the post-surgery treatments frequently as crucial to survival and recovery as the doctor’s own actions.

Doctors get all or most of the glory in the media too. But to my mind nurses should get at least an equal share there.

I'm sure many doctors would agree.

Nursing jobs can also be fraught with danger. Some patients can unexpectedly become delusional, even violent. Many patient diseases are highly contagious. Many bodily fluids potentially dangerous. In many ways nurses are on the front lines of our defenses against aging, disease, accident, and terrorist attacks on a daily basis.

I've never been a police officer, fireman, or a soldier. But from what I've seen of all those professions, I believe I'd personally have a better shot at succeeding in any of them over the long term than being as good a nurse as I've personally had the honor of meeting.

And surely many police officers, firemen, and soldiers would agree with that. For often their own lives and future happiness might someday hinge on the quality of nursing care they get to recover from the challenges of their own often harrowing jobs.

My most recent experience with nurses brought me into contact with several more of these incredible people. I stayed with my dad the first night after he had an operation. The single nurse providing the bulk of care for my father in the hours immediately following surgery sure seemed to be working a long shift, so I asked about it.

She told me she and the other nurses worked 12 hour shifts. And she had a one hour and ten minute commute to work ONE-WAY every day (emphasis added by me).

She told me she’d been working there for 14 years.

This nurse was about as wonderful with my dad amidst some fairly awful and arduous medical care tasks as a human being could be. Doing things for a total stranger most of us would find incredibly difficult to do even for the people we loved best in the world.

This woman also had children and a husband at home to care for. Though how she does all this and sleeps too with less than ten hours a day not involved in work or the related commute is beyond me.

And still more amazing is the fact this nurse might not have been unusual among her peers. Virtually every nurse there seemed outstanding, with the possible exception of the occasional young nurse-in-training you might encounter, who might often react more like one of us squeamish civilians than their more experienced sisters when confronted with the reality of their vital importance to their patients.

For often their patients cannot perform even the most basic of human functions without the aid of the nurses.

Nurses are walking miracles in my book.

When I got to take dad back home I wished so badly I was rich so that somehow I could thank the nurses there as much as they deserved.

This latest batch of wondrous ladies I met on the eighth floor of Baptist Hospital in Knoxville Tennessee during November 2005. But others equally extraordinary I met previously on other floors of the same facility, as well as other hospitals in Knoxville.

These people act like loving mothers and sisters to us all, when we need it the most desperately. I wish our government and business institutions would change to treat them better, with higher pay, shorter hours, more helping hands and job benefits, or whatever else they might need. For without them in our darkest hours, we'd all be lost.

The rest of this page is a list of links to news, research, and reference articles related to America’s unsung heroes and heroines (yes, I know some nurses are men; I don't mean to slight them in the least; it's just that I'm unsure if I ever personally met a male nurse).

I wish I had the resources to help them get the rewards they truly deserve. Maybe someday...but until then I guess this page will have to do.

Thank you, you wonderful people!

PS to my fellow patients and patient family and friends: I'm sure many nurses are often exhausted and run ragged when we see them-- so please, please, please consider this when they're around, and give them whatever break you can. They deserve it!

| code blog: tales of a nurse | Mediblogopathy - A Nurse Blog | Nursing News |

Notable links found during 2006

"When we saw Josh a short time later, he recalled opening his eyes to find a weeping nurse kissing his face. He had no idea he had nearly died and that these were tears of joy that he was still alive. He just thought this was a sweet nurse who had a unique style of waking up patients."

-- At Death’s Door, Mercifully Blocked by an Ace E.R. Team By EMILY DWASS; September 26, 2006

"The most effective families, it seems to me, are those who genuinely appreciate the efforts of frequently overwhelmed health care providers and who seek to work with them to help care for their relatives. At the same time, as a concerned family member, you may know the patient better than anyone else, and if you see something that doesn’t seem right, speak up. The doctors may not thank you, but perhaps they should."

-- Overattentive Families May Be Underrated By DAVID A. SHAYWITZ, M.D.; September 19, 2006

-- Work-family conflict common among registered nurses, study shows; Contact: Robert Conn rconn@wfubmc.edu 336-716-4587 Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center; 15-Sep-2006

"A nurse returning from work discovered an intruder armed with a hammer in her home and strangled him with her bare hands, police said."

"You didn't need to calm her. She's an emergency room nurse. She's used to dealing with crisis."

-- Police: Nurse, 51, kills intruder with bare hands; September 8, 2006

-- Thirty percent of nurses report both verbal and physical abuse in the last four working weeks It's a 'distressing and dangerous' workplace say researchers, as nurses report being punched, stabbed and bitten; Contact: Annette Whibley; wordwizard@clara.co.uk Blackwell Publishing Ltd.; 6-Sep-2006

-- Gutting Labor Rights for Nurses -- and Millions of Others By Nathan Newman; Jul 11, 2006

"In other words, the Senate is making a decision to consciously try to depress the wages of nurses, in a way that it has not done for other professions that command high wages."

-- Rising Wages for Nurses? Nanny State to the Rescue; apparently by Dean Baker; May 24, 2006

"We're disappointed that Congress, instead of providing appropriations for domestic nursing programs, is outsourcing the education of nurses,"

"In 2005, American nursing schools rejected almost 150,000 applications from qualified people..."

"I plead for justice...There has to be give and take, not just take, take, take by the United States."

-- U.S. Plan to Lure Nurses May Hurt Poor Nations By CELIA W. DUGGER; May 24, 2006

"People working in medical professions have the second most stressful job - with 96.8 percent saying caring for others is rewarding but traumatic on the same hand."

-- Top 10 most stressing Professions; May 13, 2006

Study of operating room safety shows nurses rate first, surgeons last; 2-May-2006; Contact: Eric Vohr evohr1@jhmi.edu 410-955-8665 Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

"...in the United States alone, there is a shortfall of 150,000 nursing jobs in 2005, adding that the number is predicted to hit 800,000 in 2010."

-- Philippines health care paralyzed by nurses exodus By George Nishiyama Feb 28, 2006; Reuters

-- Nursing professor calls for steps to close the reality gap between education and practice; 18-Jan-2006; Contact: Annette Whibley wordwizard@clara.co.uk Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

"A study in the January/February 2006 issue of the journal Health Affairs concludes that increasing the number of registered nurses and hours of nursing care per patient would save 6,700 lives and 4 million days of patient care in hospitals each year."

"We're entering the ninth consecutive year of a national nursing shortage"

"In 2002, U.S. general hospitals employed 942,000 full time RNs and 120,000 full-time licensed practical nurses."

-- Study shows increasing nursing staff improves safety and quality in hospitals; 10-Jan-2006; Contact: Kathy Rivers kathy.rivers@vanderbilt.edu 615-322-3894 Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Notable links found during 2005

Nurse shortage puts school kids at risk By Bruce Horovitz and Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY; Dec 14, 2005
Making the most of our precious nursing resources; Contact: Diane Squires 61-399-059-315 Research Australia; 6-Dec-2005
The average woman is cheated out of about $250,000 in wages over a lifetime
Slashdot | Engineers Have More Sons, Nurses More Daughters Posted by Hemos on May 23, '05
a huge gap has opened up between productivity and living standards
Researchers link nursing injuries to staffing levels 28-Jun-2005 Contact: Dr. Carles Muntaner, U of T Faculty of Nursing Carles_Muntaner@camh.net 416-979-6905 University of Toronto Rosalia Scalia rscalia@maryland.edu 410-706-7946 UMB Public Affairs
Experts on global nursing shortage provide recommendations to stem crisis 29-Jul-2005 Contact: Stacia Sanvik stacia.sanvik@academyhealth.org AcademyHealth
When Katrina got tough, nurses got inventive - Yahoo! News
Going to the Hospital Don't Forget to Pack a Nurse - New York Times
Emergency room visits increased by 23 percent, although the number of hospitals declined by 15 percent
Sick and Scared, and Waiting, Waiting, Waiting - New York Times
Bush Budget Calls for Cuts in Health Services

Copyright © 2005, 2006 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.
Anything you see below this point was put there by a content thief who stole this page and posted it on their own server.