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No Easy Cure

Prognosis Complex for Nursing Shortage

By Katy Klein

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Every morning at 5, Daria Zerr's alarm clock buzzes. There's no time to hit snooze, a fact Zerr realizes all too well. At 6 a.m. she's out the door before her two children even wake up. It's another 12-hour day, juggling a full-time teaching schedule, clinical rotation and doctoral classes.

Zerr arrives on the UCM campus just before 6:30 a.m. She grades papers, prepares for class and sorts through countless emails.

At 8 a.m. it's time for Concepts of Adult and Older Adult Nursing, a class of 33 students. She covers new material, answers questions and barely has time to explain this week's clinical instructions in the three-hour time period.

She then has one hour to eat lunch and meet individually with students before she hops in her car for the 45-minute drive to the clinical site, Lee's Summit Medical Center.

Clinical is four hours today, scant time for Zerr to assign patients and help students develop care plans. She makes her rounds, checks with the charge nurse but doesn't have time for a bathroom break. She has an additional clinical group this semester because the nursing department couldn't find a qualified adjunct clinical instructor.

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At 5 p.m., clinical is finished, and Zerr rushes to pick up her son from flag football practice. She has the evening to herself to grade papers, study for her doctoral classes and spend time with her family. The few hours aren't enough to make lesson plans, work on her dissertation and read bedtime stories. Zerr is up until midnight, only to catch a few hours of sleep before clinical starts at 6:30 a.m. She will spend eight hours on the floor, three in her doctoral class and head home to do it all over again the next day.

As healthcare resources deplete and costs rise, the national nursing shortage continues. Nursing programs across the country, including UCM's, are feeling the pressure to produce more graduates while still maintaining a quality curriculum. A shortage of funds to expand existing programs and a shrinking pool of qualified faculty members further compound the national nursing crisis.

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