UISG: Nurses offer more than medicine


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During my cancer treatment, I had to get a shot in my thigh every afternoon.

I hated getting them. My mom put a special numbing cream over a quarter-size area on my thigh to be poked, but the sharp poke wasn't the problem. That part didn't hurt. It was the liquid fire inside the syringe that was the problem. The medicine would burn and burn as it seeped through the layers of my skin and muscles.

This happened almost every day. But clinic days were different. Though I would get poked several times and receive numerous transfusions and therapies; I enjoyed clinic days. This is because on those days my favorite nurse, Leanne, administered my liquid-fire shot. Leanne had a special touch. She knew just how fast or slow to push the medicine through, she had a special way of massaging the medicine into my thigh afterward. She gave Blueberry a "shot" too. Blueberry was my bear and best companion. Right before my shot, Leanne gave Blueberry his "shot" in his thigh and demonstrate the same care and compassion as she did with me.

That kind of care and compassion are what most people hope to find when they make a visit to the ER, or have a hospital stay, or even just receive a flu shot at a small clinic. Nurses don't just service the technical and medical needs of the situation and patient, they also nurture and ensure emotional support for the patient, which is arguably even more important. Without nurses, patients would receive incomplete care.

But current and projected nursing shortages could lead to a decrease in care and compassion toward patients experiencing medical procedures in the not-so-distant future.

A 2009 study by nursing professors at Vanderbilt University found that projections indicate there will be a 260,000 shortfall of nurses by 2025. The researchers came to this projection based on the number of baby-boomer nurses expected to retire, combined with previous shortages that have led to a decrease in the number of nursing educators. The decrease in educators furthers shortages, because nursing schools are forced to limit class sizes because of the lack of educators. In turn, limited class sizes lead to decreases in professional turnovers and outputs into the workforce.

Ellen Cram, an associate professor and assistant dean at the UI College of Nursing, explained in a class presentation that some researchers are looking to combat the shortage by implementing robots into medical care. Such robots would be able to draw blood and administer shots. They are even programed to recite phrases to patients before and after a blood draw.

As Cram argued, these robots are not a sufficient replacement for nurses. The robots are given prompts in order to deal with a failed blood draw attempt, but what about when a child is crying or an elderly patient doesn't understand what's going on? The robots can't hug, or sing, or share stories.

Another solution to combat shortages is to shorten the time spent with a patient. Instead of calming down a patient or getting to know why he or she is afraid of a procedure, nurses would be — and some even currently are — faced with shorter allotted time spent per patient. This would create a health-care environment in which patients are more like chickens barely inspected, possibly still harboring E. coli, on an assembly line in order to meet daily quotas. Benevolence would be stripped from the nursing practice, and the act of nursing would be defamed.

I certainly would not want to arrive at the doctor's office, nervous about a procedure, and have the nurse not be able to stay and answer my questions or calm my fears. I definitely would not want a robot administering my shots. I'm 22 years old and still want Leanne to give me my shots, and she's Blueberry's preference, too. Leanne is more than just my nurse; she's my pillar of health and hope.

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