Caring for an Aging Population

The December 10, 2007 edition of Medscape Nursing had an editorial about donations of medical, nursing, and dental books that were sent to the healthcare professionals in Iraq.

The December 10, 2007 edition of Medscape Nursing had an editorial about donations of medical, nursing, and dental books that were sent to the healthcare professionals in Iraq.

The US Medical and Reconstruction team of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division received a shipment of 500 donated medical, nursing, and dental texts and journals. The material was divided according to specialty and subspecialty, and then in turn, were use to create medical libraries that were donated to five primary medical clinics.

These books are much needed and much appreciated — but with few professional nurses in Iraq, the future of nursing there is questionable. According to The Power of an Idea: Help for Iraqi Medical Professionals, by David B. Gifford, MD, FACR, FACP, there are virtually no professional nurses in Iraq, despite the existence of a baccalaureate-level nursing program in Bagdad. Nursing care is given – even in hospital – by family members.

We are, in richer countries, used to expecting a certain level of care and this includes the presence of nurses to provide necessary health care. Imagine what it would be like not to have nurses. No healthcare prevention, no outreach care, no patient education, no clinics, no cancer prevention screening, no in-hospital care…

We do have our own nursing shortage in North America. People aren’t choosing to study nursing in high enough numbers and younger nurses aren’t staying in nursing. Add to that the high number of nurses who are or will be of retirement age very soon and we won’t have enough nurses to care for our aging population.

If we are afraid of what will happen to us with prospect of fewer nurses, we can only imagine what it is like in war-torn countries that don’t have any. What can we do to support others?

The International Council of Nurses has produced a fact sheet in which they say, “In most developing countries, nurses are the primary health care providers for the majority of the population.” In other words, nurses are the gateway to health in these countries.

So, what can we do? What can nurses in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and other richer countries do?