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Nurses report differing levels of on-the-job stress

April 20, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - Between monitoring medication, caring for multiple patients at a time and handling all of the other duties that nurses perform, some might find nursing to be a stressful profession.

But not all those in the field see it that way.

Melissa Wagoner, a registered nurse who has worked at Washington County Hospital for nearly 24 years, said she finds the level of stress to be surprisingly low. With a patient-to-nurse ratio of 2 to 1 in the recovery room, for example, there are plenty of nurses to provide adequate care, she said.

If the ratio grows because a nurse calls off on a given day, Wagoner said the hospital fills the vacant slot to maintain proper staffing.

Karen Bream, a registered nurse who has been employed by Washington County Hospital for eight years, works in several departments throughout the hospital.

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"I go wherever I'm needed," she said.

Bream said that bedside nursing is her passion. Although stress on the job isn't overwhelming, she said, it is noticeable, particularly in the emergency room.

That might be attributed to the fact that the emergency room at Washington County Hospital was built to handle 40,000 patients per year, but treats closer to 80,000, she said.

The problem could be alleviated if people stopped using the emergency room as their primary source of care, she said.

"A lot of patients don't have to be there," Bream said.

Students preparing to enter the field of nursing are aware there is a shortage of nurses.

"It's making nurses not want to be nurses since they're so overwhelmed with patients," said Summer Sines, a junior nursing student at the Towson University branch at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.

Ruby Gardiner said she discovered while working in a hospital during her junior year of nursing school that a lot more nurses were needed.

"People are getting older," she said. "We really are at a shortage."

Bream noted that patients today frequently "are sicker and they stay in the hospital a lot longer sometimes."

Washington County Hospital - like other hospitals across the country - needs more nurses, Bream said. But to solve that problem, more nursing instructors are needed to keep pace with a growing number of students, she said.

Bream said she is working to earn the required master's degree to teach nursing part time.

When she earns her master's from the University of Phoenix, Bream said, she plans to split her time between teaching at Hagerstown Community College and nursing at the hospital.

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