Saturday, November 05, 2005


It must have been something like twenty years ago, back when it was "The McNeill-Lehrer News Hour" weeknights on PBS. As a political junkie even before the explosion of the number of cable networks (CNN was just a baby at that time,) this was the best source of political information on television for me then.

I recall an episode that featured a story on "the nursing shortage." Funny that. Did you know that there was a nursing shortage twenty years ago?

But now, decades later and thanks to the Sacred, Wondrous, and Infallible Free-Market Laws of Supply and Demand, we still have a nursing shortage.

A couple of keys notions snipped from a Consumer Reports article, now two years old:

"(snip)... The shortage of nurses--particularly registered nurses--and other staff at the nation's hospitals has reached critical proportions. On average, 13 percent of nursing positions at U.S. hospitals are unfilled, with some hospitals reporting vacancy rates of more than 20 percent. And the pressures of working in understaffed units is making hospital jobs less desirable. Hospital administrators report that despite strenuous recruiting efforts, higher salaries, and sign-on bonuses of up to $10,000, they are having more and more trouble filling their nursing positions."

If a hospital offers you $10K to take a job there, I assure you that you will regret it. That's another story, though. Remind me to tell it someday.

Any ways, this talking head on the News Hour had apparently studied the amount of time it takes a hospital nurse to respond to a patients' call, and the number they came up with was twelve minutes, which they described as some kind of statistical average for U.S. hospitals in general.

You can die in twelve minutes.

And that was decades ago, during the old, not-so-bad-as-it-is-now nursing shortage.

It doesn't take me that long, but I count myself as fortunate as one is likely to be as a staff nurse. My nurse-patient ratio is very good, considering the current political climate regarding health care in this god-forsaken mess of a country, and in a political "red state," at that, with certain problems in health care relating to undocumented workers, among other issues.

As a result, the costs of medical care for immigrants are staggering. The estimated cost of unreimbursed medical care in 2004 in California was about $1.4 billion per year. In Texas, the estimated cost was about $.85 billion, and in Arizona the comparable estimate was $.4 billion per year.

Personal note of criticism: the article that I snipped that from appears on the Federation for American Immigration Reform website, and from what little I know, those numbers, namely $400 million a year here in Arizona, seem reliable. But I do not think that all undocumented immigrants bring with them the risk of tapeworm, so don't lay that on me, if you please.

I have my own ideas about border control. Like just stop it. Open the borders completely and let the free market allow people to decide for themselves where they want to live and work. I am sure there is a nursing shortage in Cancun as well as here. Let us address that urgent need promptly. Oh, the humanity.

Immigration is a very good thing for The Great SouthWest, but politically we just do not know how to handle it, because we are governed at the federal level by idiots, morons, and gangsters.

Anyways, there's a nursing shortage and it takes a while for a nurse to get to you as a sick and nearly helpless hospital patient, so what do you do? Consumer Reports has this radical suggestion:

Bring your own help. Patients, nurses, and national quality experts concur: Given the shortage of nurses, the most important thing to bring with you to the hospital is a reliable family member or friend to run interference for you.

"No one who is basically helpless--a child, a person with a cognitive impairment, a person who cannot ambulate, a person who is sedated--should be left alone in the hospital unless they are in intensive care," says Kathleen Maynard, a Florida nurse who saw her Alzheimer's-afflicted father through four hospital stays in three years. "I am speaking as both an R.N. and a family caregiver. Hospital staffing is so strained that patients do not get the care they need."

Bring your own help.

Well doesn't that just sock it to me, a registered nurse in a hospital setting, right in the old codependent gut. Oh well.

I am supposed to be able answer all the needs of all my patients all the time. This is like having many jobs all at once, and I simply cannot be in more than one place at a time. That is the most difficult thing about hospital nursing, by the way: Juggling multiple tasks.

You must hyper-task at all times. No single one of those tasks need be clinically difficult nor even interesting, really. But for example, if two patients call for pain medicine at the same time, then one of them isn't going to get their medication as soon as the other. Ah... the laws of physics apply to nursing, too. Who would have ever considered that seriously?


MEC said...

The Federation for American Immigration Reform is to immigration what Focus on the Family is to gay rights and Concerned Women of America is to feminism. And what Fox News is to journalism. I'm just sayin'.

shrimplate said...

You are too kind, MEC. They're a bunch of rat-f$ckers, in my humble opinion.

But I wanted to quote "the other side" on the subject of financial support for health-care for the undocumented workers here. Perverse, I know. But it hits their premiums, and that is my point, but it's far too subtle for them to grock in fullness.

My overall point is this: if your premiums, inflated as they are by charging you to support ER visits for the undocumented, do not flow readily from private insurance companies with their 20% overhead, then those ERs will cease to exist. The system folds.

Would we rather pay the government a 2% percent overhead, and refine our treatment of illegals to perhaps allow them to contribute to our (their) governance and healthcare, and maintain our system? Or do we reject that because it's socialism?

I probably could have better expressed this but I have a distracting cold and sore throat.

But I wish to make it clear that I absolutely do not endorse those anti-Mexican pustules at FfAIR. Hence my disclaimer in the body of the text.

dorsano said...

The Federation for American Immigration Reform is to immigration what Focus on the Family is to gay rights

and what Club for Growth is to a healthy economy.