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News of significant importance in the health care industry was obscured by the recent Buffalo teachers' strike.

I refer to both the local job action at Buffalo General Hospital and the strike in Washington, D.C., by registered nurses. Both received little or no attention in the local media.

This is disturbing because these events are just the tip of the iceberg with regard to the frustration and outright burnout being exhibited by nurses across the country.

Unlike other professions, R.N.s and L.P.N.s are working and treating patients 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

We unselfishly work holidays and birthdays and miss family gatherings so that we may care for those who are ill or dying.

Registered nurses today are college-educated health care professionals who must be familiar with hundreds of medications, treatments and equipment.

It is nurses who are responsible for continually assessing patients for adverse changes in their condition. It is also nurses who put their license on the line every day in an increasingly volatile environment.

Our job is constantly being expanded as hospitals downsize to meet ever-increasing deficits. As a result, our time at the bedside is severely limited. We find ourselves pushed to the breaking point in an attempt to serve all in our care.

With the current state of health care, very few people are choosing nursing as a profession. This is evident by the recent closing of many of our local nursing schools, as well as all the publicity surrounding the recent nursing shortage.

The answer would be to increase staffing and wages while offering more competitive benefits to attract and retain people. The catch-22 is that due to the Balanced Budget Act, hospitals are losing money and many are in danger of closing.

I strongly urge all in our community to write to their elected officials to let them know that they want quality health care. They should encourage them to seek an amendment to the Balanced Budget Act returning needed dollars to hospitals before it is too late.

And members of the community should let their hospital administrators know that they want enough registered nurses to ensure a safe hospitalization.



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