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Sunday, November 29, 2020  

When will Enough be enough? Submitted commentary by Linda Rener, MPH, MSN, RNPublished 6/16/2003

In response to a letter from Carol Chaney, LPN

Carol stated, "…. I am most displeased with the lack of support LPNs have gotten from the medical profession and RNs…. We are a team and should work together. It is unfortunate that some people in the medical profession don’t appreciate or care, nor understand the skills and knowledge that an LPN has. Maybe some RNs are intimidated by us and feel if we’re not an RN we’re not a nurse."

Carol echo’s concerns that I have heard from not only LPNs but from RNs and especially new RN grads and RN refresher students who feel disrespected and unappreciated by many colleagues in the nursing profession. Frankly, the LPN vs. RN debate is not the only problem within our profession. Firstly, as a profession made up predominately by women, it is my opinion that we tend to be very passive. We accept mediocre salaries because we don’t think we are worth more. Why should we devalue ourselves just because we are in a caring role?

Secondly, why do we put more value on professional athletics and pay the John Elway’s in the Country millions of dollars a year? I have heard arguments that our professional athletics are forced to retire very young. Yes that is true, however they are handsomely compensated for this and make more money than most of us will ever see in our lifetime.

Lastly, we are the only profession that provides several ladders (Diploma, ADN, BSN, MSN, NP, and ND) into nursing and we not only confuse ourselves but other healthcare professionals and the community as well. Example: I have been asked questions such as: Does your MSN makes you a more qualified nurse than an ADN? Why are there so many layers to nursing, can’t you all get it right? Why are there 2, 4, and 6 year nursing programs; is the 6 year nurse a professional? And my favorite, what is a diploma nurse? Is she someone who couldn’t get into college? Now I know I might anger some of you, but just hear me out. If you were a patient would you want a doctor taking care of you that only went to school for two years? People are confused about it. That confusion is further illustrated by our own aggression towards each other.

In the last thirty years we continue to discuss the same issues: nursing shortages, entry-level for nursing programs, LPN vs. RN roles, unionize vs. non-union, shortening nursing programs, rotating shifts vs. fixed shifts and on and on. Think back over your own nursing careers, can you remember any professional issues that really got resolved? Or were they treated as an abrasion with a band-aid placed over it?

We hear "words" like, "nurses are the backbone of the health care system and need to be supported, nurtured and recognized." But in what ways are we supported, nurtured, and recognized? Why does it feel like we have to fight tooth and nail to get what we want? Why are non-professionals replacing us? Why would anyone think that an M.A. or P.C.T. is qualified to do a nurse’s job? No one has ever asked the AMA to shorten their medical programs or have non-professionals practice medicine. Why do doctors get to park on the ground floor, while we have to park up on the rooftops? Why won’t insurance companies recognize us as primary care providers in roles such as midwifery and holistic practices (in most states we have to work under a physician’s license in order to bill for services rendered). Why are we still fighting for proper staffing, reductions in acuity levels, pay raises, fixed shifts, and the like? There are studies upon studies documenting the negative affects of rotating shift work, yet we continue to see hospitals mandating rotating shifts, when there are plenty of people who would love to work a straight shift.

If we stopped accepting insulting pay wages (I have heard as little as $16.00 per hour) we would be offered more. I remember doing a consulting job where I charged $30.00 per hour. I thought that was rather good, until a friend of mine, in finance, sat me down and figured out that after I finished taking out my expenses (typing, printing, hand-out materials, gas, and the like) that I was actually making $5.00 per hour! The next time I offered the same consulting job I asked for $200.00 per hour, and guess what, I got it! If you feel you are worth $18.00 than that is what you will be worth. How many of you have friends who make twice what you make and have a nice office that they go to each day? How many of your friends would do what you do and for the pay that you receive? I know, many of you are saying to yourself, "but this is a helping profession, we don’t have the right to ask to be paid so much money." Well as long as you feel that way the health care system will continue to take advantage of you. You have a right to ask for proper compensation. You work hard for the money, come home with aching backs, flat feet, varicose veins, and short tempers.

I am proud to be a nurse. I value my profession and I value myself as a human being and a woman. I want to be treated with the respect and value my profession deserves. Don’t you? The next time you find yourself working next to an LPN, CNA, BSN, or NP, turn to that colleague and thank them for being there, for helping, and for being a part of a profession that is the backbone of the health care system.

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