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It does not matter

March 27, 2020

I have been a registered nurse since 1991. Wow. That’s almost 30 years. When I was still in college, earning my BSN, do you know what was being talked about? The nursing shortage. Guess what we are still talking about? Yep. The same thing. It has not gone away. We have a chronic shortage. There are multiple reasons for that, but the shortage remains.

There’s another group in short supply: respiratory therapists. Guess what those folks do? They manage ventilators and ventilator patients.

New York governor Cuomo says the state needs 30,000 additional ventilators and 140,000 hospital beds to adequately deal with the current pandemic. Here’s the problem. New York has neither the nurses nor the respiratory therapists to meet those needs. If we look at what other states need, the problem gets bigger and more apparent. We simply don’t have enough trained professionals.

Becoming a registered nurse takes 2-4 years, depending upon previous education. Becoming a respiratory therapist takes at least 2 years. What this means is that we do not have and cannot produce in time the number of trained personnel necessary to meet projected needs. We have been beating this drum for, quite literally, decades.

Let’s pretend you are the entirety of hospital administration. I am a registered nurse. The US Navy provided me with a wealth of experience and training beyond what I received in nursing school. I can manage ventilator patients and ventilators. Not all nurses have that training and experience, but I have done it. I can do it at your hospital…if you are willing to pull me away from other patients to do so. Which means you must replace me with another nurse to care for those other patients.

With the above in mind, it doesn’t matter how many ventilators or beds we have.  If tomorrow, we have all the beds and ventilators we need, we still won’t have the trained personnel to go with them.

For all of you hospital administrators, politicians, supposed experts, and professors of nursing who refused to listen as we warned you for the last 30-40 years, as we told you we needed less paperwork and fewer restrictions on practice, what the f*** did you think was going to happen when a situation like this inevitably arose? Responsibility for this does not fall on nurses on the floor. God knows it doesn’t fall on respiratory therapists. Hell, he’s not even served out his first term, so it doesn’t even fall on Donald Trump, given how long we’ve been warning you. It falls on you who have burdened nurses (and almost certainly RTs) with more and more that pulls them from doing what they need to be doing. You brought this on us. Any and all deaths because of it should be laid at your feet, you feckless, power hungry assholes.

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