The Nursing Care Economy

“All I want is a blanket.” This was what I thought to myself while lying on a stretcher in pain at 3 am in an Emergency Room (ER) last year. I looked around at the nurses, doctors, and technicians with hopes one would make eye contact with me and say, “Do you need something?” After about an hour with no success, finally one nurse said to me, “Would you like a warm blanket?” My response, “Yes, please.” That small nursing intervention made a big difference in my patient experience.  


The nurse’s intervention reflected a caring nature toward a human being, not a diagnosis or a problem. It also reflected the nurse’s ability to use her nursing assessment skills to identify what was needed at that time. The blanket may seem trivial, but it is all I remember about that experience and is what would bring me back to that ER over another. Nurses are in the business of caring for their patients.


Many of you reading this already know that I am a nurse. Yet, in the above situation, I was a patient. As a patient, I was too nervous to interrupt the nurses, doctors, and technicians to ask for the blanket. I knew that my need for a blanket wasn’t an emergency to the staff. However, I also knew that it was all I needed to relax as a patient. I could tolerate the pain that brought me in to the ER. I could not tolerate the cold. I was in unfamiliar territory. I needed the help of others. I needed nursing care.


I share this story as I believe we, as a nation, could benefit from discussing the importance of a nursing care economy this year.  The word economy often is thought of in a monetary sense. However, the term economy is defined as “careful management of available resources” (). Nurses are an available resource that require careful management.


Over my 17 years as a nurse, I have come to realize that the daily contributions of nurses through their unique talents and skill sets are often performed so well that they often go unnoticed by others.  Additionally, many people have not yet had a health situation that has required nursing care. Thus, many may not know the difference nurses can make in saving the lives of other human beings. So, if we do not continually recognize and demonstrate the essence and value of our nursing care economy on the lives of others, we may unintentionally be limiting the potential growth in a profession that is at risk for a significant shortage over the next several years.


Today there are approximately 3.6 million nurses in the U.S. (). We expect to be in demand of 1.2 million more nurses by 2022 ( A core principle of economics is supply and demand. The greater the supply, the less the demand. Additionally, the lower the supply, the greater the demand. Currently, nurses represent 1% of the U.S. population. We have approximately one nurse for nearly every 90 people. Could you imagine being responsible for the lives of 90 people? While every person will not require nursing care at the same time nor to the same extent, we need to recognize the pressure this responsibility places on nurses. In short, we need more nurses!


However, we cannot just state, ‘we need more nurses’ and expect it to happen. I believe we need to continually show others what it means to be a nurse and how nurses impact the lives of others. The American Nurses Association defines nursing as, “the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, facilitation of healing, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations (.” Beyond the definition of nursing, there are many ways we can highlight our impact on the lives of others.


Going forward into the year, I will continue to write on this topic and highlight different aspects of the profession. Additionally, we at Nightingale are working to create initiatives that can highlight other nurses in the community who are making a difference every day. Last, but not least, the nursing profession was just ranked #1 in ethical and honest behavior for the 15th year in a row (). Now is the time to share the profession with others and create an enriched nursing care economy over the years to come.