By | January 14, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. — The World Health Organization has declared 2020 the “Year of the Nurse” in celebration of Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday. Nightingale is considered the founder of modern nursing.

In North Carolina, healthcare experts say there aren’t enough nurses to keep up with demand. Meka Douthit El is director of nursing at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro. She said a swelling patient population is outpacing the supply of nurses.

“In North Carolina, it’s 139,000 nurses, and it’s more people that need to be taken care of,” Douthit El said. “And that’s only in our area. The World Health Organization, you know, noted this is the ‘Year of the Nurse’ because they recognize that it’s a shortage. It’s a global shortage.”

According to a report by researchers at Georgetown University, North Carolina is slated to have one of the worst nurse shortages in the country, with nearly 13,000 nurses needed by 2025.

Dennis Taylor is an acute care nurse practitioner at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem. He said people often think of nurses in a traditional, hospital-based role. But he pointed out they are on the front lines of disease prevention and community-based care.

“Nurses work in so many other areas: public health nursing, school nurses, home care, hospice, migrant health, senior centers, long-term care facilities, things like that,” Taylor said.

Douthit El added it’s unsustainable to expect hospital emergency rooms to shoulder the health needs of communities, especially in rural areas. She believes changing state law to allow advanced nurse practitioners to practice with autonomy would help boost access to care.

“The people that come to hospital are the sickest of the sick,” she said. “To keep them outside of the hospital, there is an increased need to address rural health, you know, and to meet people where they are.”

In 2019, nurses pressed state legislators to pass the SAVE Act, a bill that would remove physician supervision requirements for advanced practice registered nurses and clinical nurse midwives. The bill did not make it out of the state Senate, but is still eligible to be passed in 2020. And advocates continue to push for a hearing in both chambers during the short session.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service – NC