Even though 2.9 million nurses are practicing nationwide, the U.S. is facing "a serious shortage of registered nurses" that will intensify, said Dr. Fay Raines, president of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, at commencement for Samford University's Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing Friday, May 15.
But nurses have the power to fix many of the nation's health care system problems if they work together, Dr. Raines told Samford's nursing graduates. To do so, nurses must be assertive and "willing to put aside issues that divide us and focus on those that unite us," she said.
"You have demonstrated a high level of capability through your achievements in your programs at Samford University," she said. "I challenge each of you to realize that your possibilities are unlimited and your ability to make a difference and positively impact lives is a precious gift and awesome responsibility."
Samford graduated its first 16 Doctor of Nursing Practice graduates during the ceremony. The class also included 41 Bachelor of Science in Nursing and 23 Master of Science in Nursing graduates. About 800 people attended the ceremony in Samford's Wright Center.
Raines, dean of the University of Alabama in Huntsville College of Nursing, said the nursing shortage will intensify as the baby-boomer population ages and the need for health care grows.
"The nursing shortage is a national concern," she said. "Nurses make up the largest single component of hospital staff, are primary providers of patient care, and deliver most of the nation's long term care.
"Nurses are truly the key to patient safety and the most likely health providers to spot errors and signal the need for life sustaining interventions," she added.
Raines said more than 1.2 million new and replacement nurses will be needed by 2014, and that registered nursing will be the top occupation in terms of job growth through the year 2016.
She stressed the need for a well-educated nurse workforce, quoting a study that found that "every 10 percent increase in the proportion of baccalaureate prepared nurses on the hospital staff was associated with a four percent decrease in the risk of death for patients in those units."
Many of the changes facing nursing require specialization and education at the master's and doctoral levels because of the rapidity with which scientific knowledge is expanding, Raines noted.
"I believe that nursing is at a pivotal point and is a potentially powerful and positive force to provide leadership in expanding these initiatives," she said. #