The role of professional nursing is an important one. Anecdotally, nurses have been said to have more patient interaction and understanding about the patient's condition than the attending physician. Along with doctors, nurses help improve patient care. Even if there was not a nursing shortage, there would be a need for nurses to provide quality care and support to patients.
The Role of Nurses
Nurses are health care professions who are part of a health care team. No longer the "handmaid" of the doctor, as mentioned by nursing professor Virginia Burggraf, nurses are an integral part of quality patient care.
The main responsibilities of a nurse are to care for the patient. They fulfill the doctor's orders concerning patient care, and they also determine and seek to alleviate the health problems of the patient in concert with other members of the health care team such as the doctors, nutritionists and whoever else may be needed to adequately care for the patient. Depending on the specialty, the responsibilities may differ. But the general nurse duties in a hospital or clinical setting include taking vital signs, making certain that the patient gets enough fluids and rest and administering medication and treatment.
There are many specialties in nursing such as emergency room, geriatric and pediatric nursing. There is also forensic nursing. In this field, nurses may collect and examine crime scene evidence. They may also run their own legal nurse consultant business, assisting lawyers in medically-related cases and testifying in court. Schools with forensic nursing programs include Vanderbilt University.
According to staffing firm Manpower, Inc., nursing jobs are some of the hardest jobs to fill for a variety of reasons. According to Burggraf, the fact that women have more career choices has helped to decrease the number of members in this predominantly female profession. Another reason, however, stems from a social change. According to many, including the Department of Health and Human Services, the rate at which students are enrolling in nursing schools is not large enough to meet the increasing demand that the older generation is placing on the health care system. Since people are living longer, the need for more nurses to help care for them also increases.
Ways to Combat the Shortage
The American Association for the Colleges of Nursing is trying to improve the number of nurses in the U.S. by helping to support policy and various other initiatives to help alleviate the shortage. There are various initiatives under way that are helping to create more nurses. For instance, in 2008 Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania mentioned that the state money investing in nursing would be matched by private funds. The money was given to nursing programs to increase the number of faculty and number of students being educated. Johnson and Johnson and other organizations have also created programs to help attract people into the nursing profession.