Joining us once again is Dennis Taylor, RN, DNP, PhD, ACNP-BS, FCCM of Lexington and current President of the North Carolina Nurses Association. Dr. Taylor gives us his excellent insight on the current state of nursing in North Carolina.
Taking the pulse of nursing in North Carolina one year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – is there one?
YES!!! Most definitely. The pulse that was once weak and thready is now strong and regular. Nurses have experienced the full gamut of emotions over the past year. At first, there was fear of personally contracting the COVID virus. Then the uncertainty of how lethal the virus was, or how easily spread the virus would be among humans. Then came quarantine concerns. The impact that would have on those who had children – school schedules, work schedules, balancing the demands of two-income households. Then there was the virtual economic shutdown. All of a sudden, those nurses who worked in areas where care could be delayed, found they were being asked to furlough or be reassigned to other clinical areas. There were basic necessity shortages. Even our spiritual areas of worship were being impacted. Many nurses are also responsible for caring for aging parents, grandparents and great grandparents – with the knowledge of how serious this virus is among the elderly and co-morbid conditioned population, the stress was, and is, overwhelming.
Nurses are a very resilient group. They are there at the bedside when we as patients, family and loved ones need them the most. No one could have predicted that in 2020, The Year of the Nurse, that nursing would be required to sacrifice so much for our patients. Silver linings are few, but significant. Development of programs to deal with stress, coping skill development, how to take care of ourselves while caring for others were all created and distributed to nurses across the US. Public recognition of our frontline workforce, including nursing, has been phenomenal and appreciated.
What can I do to help?
The history of the modern nursing movement, which began in 1873, tells the story of a pioneering group of women who responded to the changing role of women in society. They advocated a new profession for women and better health care for the public. In forging the nursing profession in this modern period, nurses had to enter the political arena to gain legitimate authority over their education and practice.
First, advocate for nursing. Contact your elected officials and ask them to support legislation that supports nursing. There will be several pieces of legislation that will be introduced this year that will benefit the citizens of our state by supporting nurses and nurse led initiatives.
Second, volunteer. There are statewide registries where active and retired nurses may volunteer to assist with vaccination clinics and testing. We need to assure a robust and fully staffed cadre of nurses to guarantee a successful pandemic response. Go to the website: NC Training, Exercise, and Response Management System (NC TERMS). https://terms.ncem.org/TRS/
Finally, educate. Helping to explain the science behind viruses, DNA and immunity as well as explaining the safety profile of vaccines and their importance to resistance is vital in alleviating the fear that many have regarding receiving the vaccine. Only through mass vaccinations will we be able to return to any sense of normalcy.
How is the nursing workforce in North Carolina?
According to the Sheps Center at UNC Chapel Hill, a trusted labor research and projection organization, North Carolina is producing about 5 thousand nursing graduates per year. It is projected that we have a need of about 7 thousand given the growth of our state population and the projected retirements of the “baby boomer” population. So, where will the additional 2 thousand nurses come from? They will need to be recruited from outside NC and will rely on travel nurses.
Nursing is still one of the most admired, trusted and stable jobs in the workforce. It is very professionally and personally fulfilling, and the practice of nursing covers all age groups, all practice/treatment locations and disease processes.
Why can’t we just increase the enrollment in our existing nursing programs?
The simple answer is lack of faculty. Unfortunately, to teach nursing in a public educational institution, nurses must take a 25 to 33% cut in pay (as compared to direct patient care). Due to the lack of nurse educators, many programs are not able to fill their classes with students. They are not able to recruit and fill approved slots due to the lack of faculty. Private universities and schools can adjust salaries much easier than state or public funded schools. Salary scales must be revised and provide an incentive for nurses to teach and educate our future workforce.
What else is being done to support nursing education?
There will be legislation introduced in this session that will propose a tax credit for nurse preceptors. This will be a credit that can be claimed if the nurse actively precepts a student for a certain number of hours. The more hours precepted, the larger the tax credit.
Once again, a big thank you to Dennis Taylor for sharing his wisdom with us.