Monday, February 25, 2008

Missing in Action

I don't know if there is a better, more polite way to put what can only be described as a soul shaking, life changing experience: For the past month I've been in hospital and home-care, helping a dear friend recuperate from spinal surgery and the Healthcare Industry.

As so many of these stories begin, the medical gods (surgeons to the non-believers) performed their miraculous skills that most of us find incomprehensible as they are explained in those intense pre-operative surgical consultations. But the problems with my friend began during the post-operative period when he was moved from intensive care, (where the pain was treated with care and compassion) to the general ward where neither attitude nor care prevailed. Logically I know I am overreacting somewhat here as there are doubtless many fine, caring Registered Nurses devoted to their patients. But watching my friend go through his searing agony overwhelms my sense of logic and enrages one to tears. Unfortunately all it takes is a few 'bad apples' combined with a serious national labor shortage that exposes the uncaring for who and what they are. And this problem isn't going away. In fact, quite the opposite: the U.S. alone will be short some 340,000 Registered Nursing positions by 2020 when most of the 'baby boomers' will begin to enter their seventies.

Here's a modest proposal: free nursing education to anyone who agrees to work at a hospital in their community for four years. The incentive? The national average annual base salary after four years on the job is $54,000! And this pay increases considerably in the ten largest U.S. markets. Talk about writing your own ticket! But - and this is a big but - psychological testing MUST be an important part of the process. Society deserves to know for certain that these folks have a real vocation for such an important job. Vocation may be an old fashion term, but in this context it means just one thing (beyond aptitude) - and that one word would be Compassion.