Friday, May 25, 2012

Nursing, NPR, and Where to Go From Here

Nurses and nursing are consistently in the news these days, and with issues surrounding health care continuing to come to a boil in the U.S. and elsewhere, we can expect more stories that include nurses to bubble to the top.

In a recent story on National Public Radio, a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard revealed that 51% of patients hospitalized overnight in the last year were "very satisfied" with their care, while 32% were "somewhat satisfied". Of those respondents, 34% also said that "nurses weren't available when needed or didn't respond quickly to requests for help." Based on that response, a non-scientific poll of nurses on Facebook showed that nurses are overworked, stretched too thin, caring for too many patients, and otherwise behind the health care eight ball.

Are we surprised?

The comments appended to the aforementioned NPR article demonstrate a consensus view that nurses are indeed stretched too thin, asked to do too much, and often blamed for how health care isn't working.

My friend and fellow nurse blogger/author Beth Boynton responded to the piece on her blog, and many other nurses no doubt feel similarly.

Calling attention to the issues that nurses face is a very positive step towards increased public understanding of the struggles of nurses to contend with changes in the health care delivery system. If consumers understand these issues, they can more powerfully advocate for themselves and speak out clearly on issues of staffing and nurse-patient ratios, quoting polls like the one conducted by NPR, RWJF and Harvard. This type of information allows health care consumers to arm themselves when choosing a hospital for their care or negotiating for themselves once they're actively receiving that care. It also may assist in creating an alliance between nurses and consumers, rather than antipathy, resentment, or misunderstanding.

Nurses constantly talk about staffing ratios and other related issues. NPR has brought the issue further into the light of day vis-a-vis the health care consumer, and this type of reporting is very helpful in the cause of beginning to fix the aspects of our system that are indeed so broken.


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