What has happened to nursing? Where are the programs that were designed to provide opportunities for students to achieve the highest objectives, acquiring knowledge, skills, values and competencies that are so necessary for a successful nursing career? As a nurse from the “old school”, it is a belief that everyone has the right to equal affordable health care. Every individual who enters the profession of nursing should be capable of adaptive behaviors with a goal of achieving optimal health. Is nursing still an art and a science that is based on bio-psychosocial concepts and principles that are directed toward health promotion, restoration of health, and adaptation to chronic or terminal illness? Is the belief still the same that education is an active and creative process which enables an individual to adapt to new experiences, to clarify and justify values, to acquire knowledge, skills, attitudes, and self-discipline to effectively function in today’s society? Where is the firm foundation upon which nursing education is built?

To many the questions may be hypothetical to some, and real to others. It is obvious that the nursing profession is in “grave” danger. It appears from research that many of the baccalaureate programs of nursing are simply admitting students so that their enrollment records are impressive. It also appears that many students enrolled in the schools of nursing do not want to be nurses, under any circumstances. Many students have no intention of practicing nursing, but are using nursing schools to receive a degree to move on to other fields such as law and medicine. Records of nursing licensure examinations reveal that students are not as successful as they should be when taking the examinations for the first time. Some students are not successful at all, even after several attempts. This fact speaks volumes about nursing schools, their student admission, the curriculum and faculty. This is only one reason for the upcoming “fatal nursing shortage.”

The burden of nursing is another reason for the nursing shortage. Many people who are entering or have entered schools of nursing may be working on a second profession or forced into the profession because of loss of jobs in the past, looking for never-ending employment, are in middle life, single parents, and perhaps nursing was a lifelong desired career, but was unable to pursue it because of other obligations. Nursing has become unattractive in many areas. This is evidenced by the many “nursing strikes” that occur often at hospitals across the nation. Nurses strike for more wages that are compatible with their education and work status, and more humane working conditions. Many nurses work long hours, such as 12-hour days or nights, against their better judgment. They work because they want continued employment. Some nurses are working long hours by choice. They enjoy two to three days off at one time. This arrangement is often questioned. What about patient safety? Are nurses too tired and too exhausted to properly care for patients, and to document all actions performed? As a rule, if it is not recorded, it is considered not done. Are patients receiving the correct medication, correct dosage, correct route, and at the correct time?

This may be attributed to the nurse exhaustion, and is evidenced by many medication errors that are documented and many that result in lawsuits. There are many issues that must be resolved before a nursing crisis can be avoided. It is important that all nurses continue to advance their knowledge base. It is important that nursing school administrators obtain qualified faculty members who are truly practice nurse-oriented. The retention rate in the schools of nursing would increase if schools of nursing included as a mission to help students know and believe in themselves, take advantage of resources and opportunities, set and achieve their goals, learn throughout their lives, use the nursing profession to build fruitful and satisfying relationships with others from all backgrounds and walks of life, and experience the challenges and rewards that make life meaningful.

South Florida has formed a Nursing Shortage Consortium, as a non-profit organization in the healthcare industry to assist employers, nursing schools, health agencies and related members who are committed to ensuring the adequate supply of appropriate prepared registered nurses in the general health care of the community. The Consortium was founded in 1999 by nursing school deans and administrative officers. Since then, it has been developing strategies, identifying and implementing solutions to address the nursing shortage.

Today, members include hospitals, nursing schools, human resource recruiters, nurse staffing organizations and community associations in Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe, Palm Beach, and Hendry counties. This organization is funded in part by the Helene Fuld Health Trust in New York City. This Consortium conducts a wide range of activities such as Career Day, Life of a Nurse Program, Future Nurses Clubs, classroom and community presentations, adult learner and RN seminars.

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