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Who Will Take Care of Us?

nursing shortage

continued...

What's to be done to head off that crisis?

The nursing institute concluded that the U.S. needs a cultural shift, a "fundamental change in how nursing careers are perceived." It also called for better wages and benefits for nurses as well as a more desirable work environment.

Ginsburg tells WebMD, "As long as our economy is good and there are opportunities elsewhere, this problem is going to continue -- unless hospitals can redesign the job to make it an attractive job once again. Hospitals are going to have to reinvent their working environment. That's how hospitals are going to compete in the labor market."

Meanwhile, there are federal legislative efforts afoot to mandate that hospitals keep certain nurse-to-patient ratios and to prevent nurses from having to work mandatory overtime shifts.

But Clarke tells WebMD, "These things are only small pieces of the pie. Nursing is an occupation for which you can't train people quickly, and that doesn't seem to resonate with people making career choices now."

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