ALPERN AT LARGE - Kaiser Permanente nurses and other health care workers are going on strike in six states and Washington, D.C. demanding better pay and more robust staffing.
Whether one likes or hates unions, whether one likes or hates the concept of going on strike, and whether one likes or hates Kaiser Permanente, the concerns of having enough nurses, physicians, and other health care workers to take care of us are concerns that are as valid as any time in our history.
- WHY is it so damned difficult, long, and tedious to get into nursing school?
- WHY are we over-relying on medical assistants (MA’s) to do the jobs that Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN’s) used to exclusively do…without even trying to facilitate their recruitment and admission to nursing school?
- WHY is it so damned difficult, long, and tedious to get into medical school?
- WHY are we over-relying on physician extenders (Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners) to do the jobs that physicians used to exclusively do…without even trying to facilitate their recruitment and admission to medical school?
- WHY aren’t there enough nursing schools?
- WHY aren’t there enough medical schools?
- WHY the hell are we forcing so many qualified applicants fighting to get into medical school to waste their time doing “gap years” when we need them NOW…or even yesterday?
Nurses and physicians and other health care workers are bailing out of medicine at record rates—even before COVID hit us, bureaucratic regulations and electronic medical records (EMR) were preventing us from seeing more patients.
With EMR, handwriting issues aren’t as critical, and notes can be clarified in ways we didn’t see with paper records…but the notes are often just big, long “boiler plate” records that are frightfully difficult to discern…
…and our different EMR systems don’t talk to each other, even between your clinic where you see your doctor/provider and where you might be hospitalized…
…and the number of patients your doctor/provider can see probably went down about ~25% from when he/she had paper records.
So Kaiser workers are overworked and understaffed. Many of us, even those who do NOT like strikes, probably are in one way, shape, or form, supporting their efforts…or at least their intentions.
Because our health care system is in crisis. The strike by 75,000 nurses and other health care workers is just one small emblematic part of the worsening crisis.
Because the Affordable Care Act didn’t include any significant increase in ensured funding for nursing and medical schools.
Because health plans are not being asked enough to help fund affordable health care via more nursing and medical schools (ironically, Kaiser Permanente is probably one of the health insurers and delivery systems who do MORE for residency programs and job training than most others).
Because we’re making it too damned hard and expensive to become trained in health care professions.
And because our economic policies, from local to state to federal, is making it so very expensive to eat, live, and access health care so that even health care workers—exhausted, dispirited, and burnt out—can’t even make ends meet.
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father. He was active for 20 years on the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) as a Board Member focused on Planning and Transportation, and helped lead the grassroots efforts of the Expo Line as well as connecting LAX to MetroRail. His latest project is his fictional online book entitled The Unforgotten Tales of Middle-Earth, and can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)