Yesterday, Senator John Edwards continued his four-day Fighting for One America bus tour covering New Hampshire. He talked about a plan to offer universal health care for everyone as well as his commitment to add 100,000 nurses within five years.

John Edwards said “Elizabeth and I are really enjoying our tour of New Hampshire. People have been asking excellent questions and we are having detailed discussions about how we are going to build one America together. One of the most important issues we hear about is health care,” Edwards continued. “That is why I am proud that I was the first candidate to announce a health care plan and to have the only plan that is truly universal. But to ensure every person gets quality care, we also need to address our nursing crisis. Nurses are the backbone of our health care system, but we’re facing a serious shortage with dire consequences for patients and for our health care system. I will fix this crisis so every American gets quality care.”

According to John Edwards, New Hampshire, which boasts the highest per capita population of nurses in the USA, will find itself seriously short of nurses by 2020 – about 27% short. He pointed out that even today, just 62% of nurses in New Hampshire work full-time. While all Washington can do is provide rhetoric, empty talk and half measures, Edwards says he is offering courage, conviction and bold ideas to build one America.

Edwards says America has too few nurses, even though they are the backbone of the country’s health care system. He added that as Americans pay more and more for their health care they are receiving less and less.

According to Senator John Edwards:

Nursing shortage growing: One estimate says New Hampshire needs 672 new nurses annually until 2014 just to fill vacant positions. However, the state is only producing half that number of nursing graduates each year. By 2020 the USA will have 1 million fewer registered nurses than it needs. New Hampshire will have 27% fewer nurses than it needs. (NHDES, 2007; HRSA, 2006; CHWS, 2006; NHNA, 2006)

Nursing shortage undermines patient health: A patient who goes in to hospital for routine procedures is at a 31% higher risk of death if his/her hospital has a severe nursing shortage. Up to 25% of unexpected hospital deaths may be due to nursing shortages. Taking on more nurses could save 6,700 lives in hospitals and 4 million days of hospital care. Addressing nursing shortages properly would significantly reduce adverse outcomes, such as hospital-acquired pneumonia and cardiac arrest. (Aiken et al., 2002; JCAHO, 2002; Needleman et al., 2006)

Overworking nurses is dangerous: Several hospitals are having to make their nurses work longer and longer shifts in order to address their nursing shortage. They are also making nurses responsible for an ever-growing number of patients. Many nurses have to work shifts of 12 hours or more. (IWPR, 2006)

RNs leaving nursing: Almost 450,000 nurses have left the profession. They are put off by the longer hours, unsafe workplaces, low compensation and lack of respect. (HRSA, 2006; CHWS, 2006)

John Edwards says he will take on pharmaceutical and insurance companies in his quest for universal health care. Not only will his plan focus on primary care and the pro-active management of chronic diseases, but also on prevention. He says he needs 100,000 extra nurses over the next five years to make sure his plan works – he will try to get more RNs who have left to come back, as well as upping the numbers who graduate each year.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist