Nursing Shortage Hits Closer to Home

Nursing Shortage Hits Closer to Home

Michael A. Bell / The Anniston Star

March 11, 2009

They are the men and women in scrubs, stethoscopes dangling from their necks. They thump veins, check IV levels and provide a face to an otherwise sterile environment.

Nurses make clutch decisions each day that save the lives of millions. Yet, health care providers across the globe continue to grapple with a nursing shortage.

Local hospitals feel the pinch. Regional Medical Center in Anniston lists 29 available nursing jobs on its Web site. Jacksonville Medical Center is short at least two. And four registered nurses at Stringfellow Memorial Hospital said they are unsure when they’ll return to work after clashing with management over increased patient loads.

Christine Novick, one of the nurses, said they already were stretched thin by caring for six or seven patients in the medical/surgical unit. Taking up to eight, as they said they were asked, would saddle them with stress and compromise patient care, they said.

Stringfellow spokesman Kidada Hawkins declined to comment aside from an e-mailed statement.

“Out of respect for our employees’ and patients’ privacy, we will not discuss specific personnel or patient matters,” he said.

Other area nurses said they’ve been so strapped for time they’ve filled out charts while using the restroom.

They’re not alone. Hospitals across the globe continue to report severe nursing shortages. Last week, a hospital in the Canadian province of Alberta shut down its obstetrics program because of a lack of nurses.

But giving available nurses more work isn’t the answer, said Linda Bell, clinical practice specialist with American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

“Options like, ’We’ll just give more patients to this one nurse’ don’t work,” she said, “because you put the patients at risk, you put the nurses at risk, and it just sort of falls apart.”

Health officials expect it to worsen.

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