Nursing cuts will hurt Utah health care

By By Jeffrey Jenkins

By Jeffrey Jenkins

The state budget cut on higher education is continuing to pillage various departments at the U. The cut is not only pathetically reducing the number of copies professors and staff can make (a sign in itself of just how bad the cuts are getting), it is also threatening the quality of future health care in the state.

A 2007 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics highlights nursing as the largest health care occupation in the United States with 2.5 million jobs. However, even with so many nurses practicing, Utah faces a severe shortage of nurses in long-term care and a significant shortage in hospital care according to Dean Maureen Keefe of the College of Nursing.

A statewide initiative emerged from the 2004-2005 legislative session that allocated $2 million in state dollars to seven nursing programs across the state. The programs received a portion of the $2 million relative to their class size. The U’s portion from the initiative equates to $500,000.

Keefe said the money is used in several ways, one of which is to increase the number of faculty members at the U College of Nursing in order to educate more nurses. An increase in the faculty of the U College of Nursing would not only facilitate the training of more nurses, it would also help to mitigate the effects of the nursing shortage that plagues health care in Utah.

“The nursing shortage negatively affects the public by limiting access to health care,” Keefe said. “The quality also decreases when there is a bad ratio of nurses to patients.”

In May of 2005, before the economy began to elicit symptoms of recession, the U Hospital was recognized by Modern Healthcare magazine as one of the 100 most improved hospitals in the nation. According to Modern Healthcare, the U was able to decrease adverse safety occurrences, patient fatalities and other complications during a five-year period.

Now that the U College of Nursing is facing not only higher education budget cuts, but also the loss of direct state funding, the arch of progress made over the last few years will become increasingly difficult to maintain. Keefe said the college could be facing up to a $1 million loss of total funding combined.

The most reasonable and frugal action for the Legislature to take is to renew the initiative. However, even if it is renewed the U nursing school will still lose more than it would gain from the monetary infusion.

A cut in funding is a cut in the quality and quantity of Utah health care. Without adequate nursing staff, hospitals are left unable to expand to meet the increasing medical needs and specialties of a diverse population. Renewing the initiative will hedge against losing past progress and ensure a better quality of care in the future.

[email protected]

Jeffrey Jenkins