Martha N. Hill, dean emerita of Johns Hopkins University and professor of nursing, medicine and public health, is absolutely correct when she says "the need for (nurses) today is great and unrelenting."
Doctors, after all, can't be everywhere. In this age of the Affordable Care Act, Advanced Practice Nurses such as nurse practitioners are called physician extenders, and allow a medical practice to attend to more patients. The health care system is relying more and more on well trained nurses to work together with a physician in providing patients access to medical care and are especially valuable in physician shortage areas.
The remarks were part of a 10:45 a.m. lecture at Chautauqua Institution titled "Health Care: From Bench to Bedside." Hill encouraged nurses to seek all forms of higher education, showed concern over potential obstacles to students, namely a lack of financial aid and scholarships - a result of the economic recession - that has essentially stifled interest in nursing programs. Moreover, since a lot of schools are unable to expand the capacity of their nursing programs, many students who apply are simply rejected.
Hill also has concerns over the typical nurse's workload and job duties, saying nurses often handle all patient documenting. That, of course, means the nurse spends less time with patients.
"There is a nursing shortage," Hill said. "It's a supply-and-demand system. The demand has never decreased ... but there's concern over the supply."
Area officials have long shared Hill's concern over supply - and have done something about it.
High school students interested in nursing can attend programs through Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES. Training programs are similarly offered through the Cassadaga Job Corps Academy. Jamestown Community College offers its own nursing program, and we note at least five nursing-related scholarships for JCC's program: the Emma Galloway Nursing Scholarship, which is for nursing majors; the Lula P. Glidden Nursing Award, which helps pay for textbooks for nursing majors; the Adele Maytum Hunter Nursing Scholarship for nursing majors; the state Federation of Home Bureaus Scholarship, another scholarship for nursing majors; and the Pat McGee Nursing Scholarship, which is managed by the JCC Foundation. We also note 16 separate funds at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation to help those who want to pursue nursing as a career, including the Marianne Carpenter Memorial Scholarship Fund, the foundation's newest offering named for a Randolph resident and mother of four who passed away from cancer last year while enrolled in the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES School of Nursing. The criteria under which a student can receive the scholarship is that they must be a parent enrolled in the BOCES nursing school. For more information on nursing scholarships at the foundation, visit www.crcfonline.org.
Chautauqua County also is lucky to have the Health Care Action Team, a subcommittee of Jamestown's Strategic Planning and Partnerships Commission, working on the area's physician shortage. The Health Care Action Team was formed to focus on the impact of health care on development in the community, as well as accessible, high-quality health care for residents. The group regularly brings health care professionals to the table to discuss ways to attract physicians.
Anyone who has spent time in a hospital recently knows how difficult and vital nurses are to patients and their families. The local efforts to both attract locals to the nursing profession and to make education more affordable are a good start. Hill's remarks should serve as a worthy reminder, however, that more can, and should, be done.