Readers Respond

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Iowa nurses deserve better


It is a known fact that Iowa's nurses face many challenges.

Nurses' pay in Iowa remains among the lowest in the nation and the outlook is poor for new nurses to replace those who are retiring.

The Culver/Judge Administration believes that Iowa's nurses deserve better.

So, in January, Governor Culver gave me a challenge - to utilize my experiences as a former nurse and prepare a series of proposals on what we can do to improve the lives of these dedicated professionals.

It was a challenge I gladly accepted. We brought together more than 20 of Iowa's top nursing professionals and experts to help us solve the problem.

After a flurry of activity, I was proud to present the findings of the Iowa Nursing Task Force last month.

In our report, we identified some specific issues affecting nursing today, such as:

Iowa nurses' wages are too low due to Iowa's low federal Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement rates.

Iowa's schools are not able to produce enough new nurses to keep up with demand

A third of the nursing workforce will retire in the next decade.

And rural nurses face special hardships due to the distance they travel for work and the need to be more general in their scope of practice

And to address these problems, the task force outlined the following recommendations:

*Develop a Health Workforce Center that will not only be a clearing house for data on all medical professionals, but help us develop state strategies to address issues with that workforce.

*Make it easier for prospective nurses to get an education by expanding both public and private sector forgivable loans and scholarships programs for nursing students.

*Increase the number of nursing faculty through better salaries and innovative recruitment efforts.

*Increase the efficiency of nursing education programs through a standardized curriculum and expanded distance learning opportunities.

*Build a strategy for greater public investment in nursing to raise awareness of what nurses bring to our communities/state.

*Engage rural areas in health planning and problem solving so that the voice of rural nurses is heard.

*Work with the health care industry and encourage them to bring nursing pay to the national average. If we can do it for our teachers, I know we can do it for our nurses