Basic Rights, Health Care, and Public Policy

Article excerpt

As faculty, we also have a very important role to play. We must communicate how the faculty shortage stands in the way of increasing the number of nurses who are available to provide health care in the United States. Writing to our representatives in Congress is one way each of us can share information about the impact of the nursing shortage and influence public policy.

As I write this message, I am preparing to travel to Ethiopia where I am involved in an educational development project sponsored by the Carter Center, funded by USAID. This project involves the participation of seven universities in educational activities aimed at building capacity and sustainability in the preservice educational system. The goal is to improve the preparation of health care professionals. The desired outcome is improved health for Ethiopians.

Comparisons of health care and education in the United States and Ethiopia remind us how fortunate we are to be nurses and health care providers in a developed country. As President Carter has told us, we consider good health a basic right, "especially among poor people afflicted with disease who are isolated, forgotten, ignored, and often without hope."

What groups in our society might fit this description? Good health requires good health care. While we are fortunate to be American, rising costs of health care, the nursing and faculty shortages, budget deficits, and nursing education issues pose threats to our ability to sustain quality nursing and health care. Addressing these issues is crucial to the future of nursing and nursing education and our ability to provide quality nursing care.

On March 1, Americans for Nursing Shortage Relief (ANSR) held a Congressional reception in Washington, DC. All members of Congress, their legislative assistants, and key governmental nursing officials were invited. This event provided opportunities for representatives from multiple nursing organizations to speak to issues of concern and to provide information on the nursing shortage. Some points of discussion were:

* Most health care is delivered by nurses.

* Federal investment in nursing education is less than one tenth of 1 percent of the total federal budget.

* Title VIII Nurse Workforce Development Programs, funded at $150.67 million in FY 2005, are the only direct source of federal funding for nursing education. …