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A Shortage of Doctors or Nurses? Which Costs the Patients More?

February 13, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 156

A "Shortage of Doctors" sign in front of any modern hospital would have patients fleeing in droves, driving the round asphalt driveway at warp speed right past the Emergency Room door, and right back onto the main highway, looking for the next hospital- one that was properly staffed. Now why don't patients do the same thing when they find out there's a shortage of nurses? Why?

Because everyone knows what doctors do; they cure disease, they offer treatment, they save lives. Right?

Oh God, that's still the mindset of consumers and in healthcare?

Doctors have always had good press.

Does anyone really know what nurses do?

The old images of nurses as a doctor's handmaiden have disappeared but what has replaced those images?

Does the public know that we're the ones who are at the bedside or at the nurses station watching those high tech monitors, making sure a critical patient's heart rhythm is within normal limits and doesn't show an arrhythmia that is dangerous enough to kill that patient before we call a doctor? If the doctor is busy somewhere else, have we told them that it's the nurse who administers the medication and keeps that patient alive until the doctor gets there?

When a patient's trach gets plugged and that patient can't breathe, a nurse is the one who clears it. A nurse starts the IV, a nurse measures the medication, a nurse changes dressings, a nurse suggests blood work. When a nurse turns a patient in bed, she's watching for bruising, pooling of blood to assess circulation, and it's the nurse who is monitoring the changes in consciousness because the nurse is the one who knows the patient. The nurse is the first one who notices any disorientation, or change in a patient who is being evaluated for organ function. When that patient falls apart under the stress of being sick, of worrying about being a burden to his or her family and has no one to share the helplessness they feel because they know their sickness is using up the money they worked for their whole lives, the money they wanted to leave as a legacy to their family, do you think most doctors have the time to listen?

Healthcare is still trying to figure out whether a doctor can be paid for even discussing a patient's dying with him or her. No, doctors aren't paid for that by insurance and very few of them are comfortable talking about the death, because no matter what anyone says, death often feels like a failure. And most doctors are warriors, still.

There is a place for doctors, and I've met some very good ones. But those doctors will tell you that life without nurses is hell for them and their patients.

Does anyone know how many doctors are required to take care of the patients in a 400 bed hospital? If it's on the night shift, do they know that most of their doctors are home, asleep, and only inexperienced interns and residents are filling in? Residents and interns are worked to death on long shifts -- without sleep and little experience, who do you think they turn to for help? Nurses with more experience than they have, that's who.

So let's put the blame for all that's happening in healthcare where it belongs and I believe it belongs to all of us who work within the healthcare system. All of us who've helped to keep secret, with jargon and mystery, what really goes on in healthcare. Then let's all of us, as nurses, make it better.

Our vow is that we will educate and advocate. Let's tell the public who nurses are, what they do, why they need us, and what will happen to them without us. The public deserves that information. Even as patients, they are sick and vulnerable - not mentally challenged or children.

Once we give them the information, then it's possible for them to make informed decisions about their health care.

Not one of us should be so arrogant as to assume that we know better than a patient does what they want for treatment or for their life. Patients are people, sure they're weak and vulnerable when we get to see them, but they still deserve our respect. Would you want less for yourself?

Carol Gino RN MA is the author of The Nurse's Story and other New York Times Bestsellers. Her books are available in print or digital versions. Please visit " " Facebook: The Hopeful Healer.

Source: EzineArticles
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