English Composition I
Nurses: Vanishing Act
“There are nearly 2.7 million nurses in the United States, making up the largest division of the healthcare workforce.” (Stokowski, 2004) So how is there a shortage of nurses today? To the general public 2.7 million nurses seems like a good number, but within the healthcare field it is devastating. That number portrays all licensed nurses, not licensed nurses actively working in the healthcare field. With financial constraints, a diminishing workforce, and stressful work environments licensed nurses are leaving their jobs in the healthcare fields for better opportunities.
“To understand the challenges facing professional nursing today, it is essential to know something of nursing’s history.” (Chitty, 2001) Prior to the foundation of modern nursing, women at home, nuns and the military often provided nursing-like services. Nursing gained recognition in the 19th century with the activities of Florence Nightingale. (Chitty, 2001) Coming from a family of privilege and classic education, a decision to have a common job such as nursing made her a rebel in her upper class, social society. After helping clean and organize a British hospital during the Crimean War in Turkey, she went on to found the first training school for nurses at Saint Thomas’s Hospital, London in 1860. (Chitty, 2001) Unfortunately America had not seen the organization of nursing in Britain until it was too late. 1861 marked the start of the Civil War, and there was no plan to deal with the wounded men on either the Union or Confederacy sides. (Chitty, 2001) Women responded to the need, but there was no training to prepare them. President Lincoln appointed Dorothy L. Dix as superintendent of Women Nurses of the Army, to deal with the problem. (Chitty, 2001) Dix trained and prepared 100 women to supervise the care of the sick and wounded soldiers of the Union. (Chitty, 2001) In the years following the war, there were expansions in the United States nursing profession; three schools modeling Nightingale’s Saint Thomas School were founded. (Chitty, 2001) The nursing profession grew in great strides in the 1900’s. There was a rise in hospitals, science research and popularity for a nursing career. (Chitty, 2001) Nursing saw its highs and lows through the years, but it became an importance in society. Nurses became a staple in the healthcare community. “In the past, especially during war, nurses have demonstrated flexibility and competence in the face of change.” (Chitty, 2001) Today there is a downward trend, the nursing field is vanishing and is not meeting the challenges of financial constraints, a diminishing workforce, and low job satisfaction like years past. “Following World War II, federal budget appropriations for medical research increased enormously, resulting in a surge of research in many of the specialized areas.” (Chitty, 2001) This surge in funds meant a demand from hospitals for nurses willing to do the work. The government and public were willing to invest their money for research if it meant new medical advancements. Today the urgent need is not as prevalent and economic shortfalls have cut major funding, so the pay has decreased and research cannot be funded, creating fewer jobs. Time and money is now spent on advancing new technologies. This is limiting hospitals ability to pay nurses an appropriate wage for their work. Unfortunately, even with the low wages nurses are still being expected to learn these new technologies and take on more responsibilities.
With all of the financial constraints in the healthcare field today, registered nurses (RNs) are leaving their fields for better opportunities and higher paying jobs. As a field of primarily women, they have more options, with higher pay, open to them than in previous years. Women are now employed in jobs such as; medical doctors, managers of stores, or even CEO’s of major