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Wellstone, Dayton address nursing shortage

Senators Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton lent a sympathetic ear to the concerns of area nurses regarding pay, staffing and other workplace conditions.

Senators Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton lent a sympathetic ear to the concerns of area nurses regarding pay, staffing and other workplace conditions.
A Monday morning public hearing at the College of St. Scholastica focused on the shortage of nurses and the resulting impact on those working in the field and patient care.
The senators heard details on the typically frantic work day of a hospital nurse and the stress brought on by short staffing and high patient loads.
The hearing was organized by the Minnesota Nurses Association and is the first of a series that Wellstone and Dayton will hold across the state.
"Today is about a public health crisis," said Pam Johnson, a nurse with Community Action Duluth, who also talked about the health care concerns of low income residents.
"The more experienced nurses are tending to retire earlier to escape the stress and staff shortages," she said.
The senators were also told about the shortage of qualified nursing assistants and shortage of nursing instructors.
"The shortage of registered nurses in the country is approaching a state of crisis," said Cecelia Taylor, a nursing professor and vice president of academic affairs at the college. "Patient safety is being compromised."
She said the college could handle 20 more nursing students a year if they had financial assistance.
The senators were asked to push for more federal grants and forgivable loans for nursing education.
Cathy Olson, a member of the Minnesota Nurses Association, asked the senators to support universal health care.
Wellstone acknowledged that the hearings were one of the first things that he and Dayton were doing together.
"We need to make a connection between nurses and working conditions and the health of the people of Minnesota," he said. "It's a real value issue for Minnesota."
"We could have universal health coverage for all Americans for one-third of the projected surplus," Wellstone said. It was a point Dayton grabbed and took further.
The freshman senator said, "It reinforces the urgency of what we face as a nation.
"One-third of the tax giveaway to the wealthiest residents is the trade-off. I can't believe that this is even the basis of debate."
"We have enormous resources," Dayton added. "It's a huge moral issue and a huge moral test for our country."
"I've been saying for a while and no one believes me," Wellstone joked. "I'm the moderate."
Next month, the association will tackle nursing issues on the state level in a series of meetings with legislators.

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