March 16, 2005 – The nursing shortage in the United States is expected to continue into the year 2015. That's part of the message UVI Alumna Jean Davis Phaire delivered to nursing students and healthcare professionals during her lecture, "The Nursing Journey
The Past, Present and Future." Phaire was the guest speaker at the UVI Distinguished Nurse Lecture Series.
"We all know of a nursing shortage. It affects us here in the Virgin Islands where will they come from? Where do we find them? It's a problem," Phaire said.
Even though nurses have more career options now than ever before, Phaire believes prospective nurses should be exposed to the profession as early as middle school in order to take advantage of those opportunities. "When they get older and make choices, nursing will be one of those choices."
Davis Phaire made the decision to become a nurse at age 15 and was part of the first graduating class of nurses from the College of the Virgin Islands in 1968. A registered nurse, Phaire also holds a Master of Science degree in Nursing and a certification in the business of nursing. She is a nurse executive, entrepreneur and educator. Once employed at the Knud Hansen Memorial Hospital, Phaire is now vice president for Patient Services at Bon Secours Baltimore Health System in Maryland. There she manages inpatient medical, surgical, critical care, pharmacy, emergency, perioperative and psychiatric services. She is also responsible for clinical education and outpatient renal services.
Looking back on her early years in nursing, Phaire recognizes that the 1970s were much slower paced in the hospital, even though "at the time I was living it I didn't consider the pace to be slow at all," she said. The uniform was white, starched, and topped off with a hat. Documentation was important, and length of hospital stays depended on how the patient was doing.
Now, documentation is more intense, managed care has taken over and there are more economic challenges in the profession. "When you utilize an insurance company to pay for your hospital stay, there comes a time when you're expected to leave," Phaire said. "Choices are based on a financial engine." Nurses must be willing to take a team approach to healthcare, working with professionals in other services available to patients such as social work, pastoral services and therapists among other things.
Future trends include moving toward an "evidence based practice," which is reviewing and using the best available clinical evidence in healthcare. Coming years will also see many advances in technology. Teleradiology, stem cell research, satellite treatments and robotics will be part of the daily patient care routine.
"Every change made in technology affects you as a nurse," Phaire said, telling the group, "We still have to do what we do, but we have to be smarter about the care and use the technology out there to help us reach our goal."
Throughout the decades, a few things remain constant. One is that the greatest tools at a nurse's disposal are four of the five senses: smell, sight, hearing and touch. "If you were absent any of those senses, how would it affect patient care," Phaire asked the audience. The second is that personal involvement will never be replaced. "Compassion is what makes nursing what it is," said Phaire. "It's of no value to have an excellent nurse with an ugly attitude." And a third constant is to be "patient advocates, because sometimes we are all they have."
The lecture Tuesday at UVI was Phaire's third presentation in Virgin Islands this week. Health care professionals who attended could earn an hour of continuing education credit. The Distinguished Nurse Lecture Series, sponsored by the Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation, seeks to bring nursing leaders to the Virgin Islands community who are known and recognized nationally and internationally.
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