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The Growing Shortage of Nurses in Hospitals

September 05, 1987

The article on the nursing shortage offered a glimpse of a very real problem within nursing, that is, are we really needed? From the perspective of most nurses, the answer to that question is very unclear. Of course one might first say that nurses are necessary to provide highly specialized services to people who are ill, and assist in their recovery--but how necessary are we?

Over the past two decades the cost of a day's stay in a hospital bed has risen fivefold, from about $50 in 1967 to about $280 in 1987. During this same time nursing wages have failed to keep up with the cost of living. A nurse now makes less in real terms than a nurse did 20 years ago.

If there is a shortage of nurses, it is largely because the many hospitals we serve value our labor less than they value the buildings we work in. Or maybe it is just a matter of grammar. Nursing is a verb, a service or task performed then it is gone; hence the value of nursing services may be difficult to assess. Buildings and such are nouns, obvious and easy to assess. I suspect hospital administrators fancy nouns more.

Should you need to go to the hospital in the future, I do hope you will like the building.

THOMAS ALLEN COSS, RN

Calabasas

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