Imagine No More Nurses

Recruiting foreign nurses to cover staffing shortfalls is local hospitals' latest healthcare Band-Aid. But the crisis only grows.

Perhaps within the next 20 years hospitals will be subjected to budgets, helping to control costs, Sullivan suggests. And maybe, he muses, within 30 years the United States will move to a single-payer system of health care. But for that to be more than just a fleeting notion, the healthcare industry--and the government--must get moving.

"This is a huge social problem now, and when the baby boomers retire, it has the making of a disaster. And nobody is holding hearings, nobody has released a blueprint to solve the problem," Sullivan says. "Nobody wants to take a long-term view and say 'this is how it's got to happen' and put money there. It's going to get worse before it gets better."

For his part, Miles agrees that governments have failed on this count. "There is a complete collapse of forward-looking government on a state and national level." But, he stresses, he's fairly hopeful that a change may be in the offing. Most of the pieces are already in place to direct nurse's aides toward nursing careers, he maintains. It's just that industry and educators will need to work together. "Of all healthcare reforms, this one strikes me as one of the most immediately doable," he says.

"Nursing is just a neat thing to do," muses Miles. "It's better than sitting in a cubicle and being a telemarketer."

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