Nurses merit our thanks, support

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 13, 2004

Every day every Suffolk resident gets older and our need for quality health care grows.

If you are a member of the baby boom generation, the number reaching retirement age is growing exponentially. The need for quality health care is also important to make sure your golden years are productive, happy and satisfying. Unfortunately, a crisis is quickly approaching that has been paid lip service by the highest levels of our national government. The crisis…a dramatic shortage of nurses.

This week marks National Nurses Week. It is the one time each year every American, regardless of age, color, creed or wealth should stop and thank every nurse they know for the extraordinary job they perform, from Suffolk’s Obici Hospital, to doctor’s offices, school, the Suffolk Public Health Service, and clinics. Nurses are the backbone of a medical system that is flexed to the maximum.

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Did you know that there are about 2.7 million registered nurses in the United States? Of that group roughly 2.2 million are actively engaged in nursing. However, there is crisis on the horizon and everyone from Mayor Dickens, to Governor Warner, to President Bush himself needs to realize the impact of the pending shortage.

According to 2004 Nursing Week section of, &uot;As of November 2001, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than one million new nurses will be needed by the year 2010. The report projects that total employment will increase by 22.2 million jobs during the 2000-2010 period, rising to 167.8 million. Health care practitioners and technical occupations are expected to account for 1.6 million new jobs during that period. Registered nurses, which represent the largest occupation in this group, should account for more than a third of those new jobs.&uot;

In the same section continues, in their Fact Sheet, that, &uot;The nation’s registered nurse (RN) workforce is aging significantly and the number of full-time equivalent RNs per capita is forecast to peak around the year 2007 and decline steadily thereafter, according to Peter Buerhaus of Vanderbilt University’s nursing school. Buerhaus also predicted that the number of RNs would fall 20 percent below the demand by 2010.&uot; This is not good news at all!

What does this shortage mean? Our health system will be added to the caring nurses who are stressed and overworked. Back-ups in critical locations such as the Emergency Room or Urgent Care centers will grow worse. Worst of all, young men and women who are seriously considering the profession will look at current trends and take their skills elsewhere.

Citizens of Suffolk….it is time to address this problem head on. Write Senators Warner and Allen, Congressman Forbes and the Governor. Ask each of them what they have personally done to addressing the nursing shortage in Suffolk and nationwide.

National Nurses Week…a time to sincerely thank every nurse for their dedicated service. It is also a time to engage our leadership and once and for all address this national problem.