… Learn from them. 

View from hospital number “I’ve lost count.”

It has been a rough year.  Not for OCN, but for me personally. Since January of this year, I’ve rushed to the emergency room of four different hospitals on six occasions. Sometimes it was for family, and sometimes it was for me. I have tearfully left a loved one in a long-term inpatient treatment program. Twice. I have spent several evenings in a row watching the sun set from my hospital room wondering if I’d be healthy enough to be released the next day. Like I said, it’s been rough.

With each experience, I met some amazing healthcare professionals, especially nurses. I experienced nursing expertise and professionalism first hand. During my stay at Providence Portland Medical Center last spring, the nurses had to be especially patient with me while I quizzed them on their education and their career goals and explained the ways we are working to improve the nursing workforce statewide.

I consider all these encounters with nurses over the past year to be unintended fieldwork. I watched how nurses professionally navigated the challenges of understaffing. I saw the challenges of hosting a student clinical placement, and I saw nurses and nursing students intentionally work to reduce the amount of disruption experienced by the patient. I witnessed how the healthcare system blocks access to behavioral health services, and how nurses work side-by-side with other providers to game that broken system and find other options for desperate patients.

It brought home the importance of not only the work of nurses but the work of OCN. So much has been done from a policy perspective to make sure people have financial access to healthcare. In fact, about 94 percent of all Oregon residents have access to health insurance due to both state and federal health care reforms. Now we are at a point where the need for people to actually provide healthcare is the focus.  The Oregon Employment Department reports nursing as one of the top five in-demand jobs in the state. OCN’s own analysis shows nursing education programs aren’t graduating enough nurses to meet the future needs, and this is a problem. The healing experience of everyone in the state relies on a professional, well-educated nurse. We owe it to all Oregonians to make sure everyone has access to the same quality care that I experienced.

I can attest that nursing is the backbone of the healthcare delivery. I have seen it. And while I’ve always been a fan of nurses, I think these experiences have solidified my passion for nurses and nursing.  I am grateful to every nurse who has touched my life and the lives of my family this year. I know there are two more months left of 2018, but I’m crossing my fingers that everyone stays in one piece, just for a little while.

Jana Bitton, MPA
Executive Director