Scaring Nurses Off Health Care Reform?

By fletcherwarren, via Flickr

An example of the kind of misinformation that is being spread to scare people about health care reform can be found in the post quoted below. The altered U.S. flag image to the left (by fletcherwarren, via Flickr) suggests, with perhaps intentional irony, the McCarthy-era fear-mongering about socialism that seems to underlie many such blanket dismissals of health care reform. What do you think? And where are people getting such information?

. . . I just want to know If Im the only person who is considering not doing nursing if the gov’t goes through with universal health care. I was talking to my manager about this tonight at work and he was saying that Im probably not going to want to do nursing since nurses will make $9 or $10 an hour. I know nursing isnt about money, but that kind of money isnt worth going into nursing. You cant even live off that amount of money! Nurses now say they dont get paid enough for how hard they work and how much they have to put up with. Am I the only thats thinking like this?

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Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. steven November 7, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    you think we nurses should sacrifice 4-5 years of going to school to have my wages cut not only is it going to affect peoples homes how about their children. how much is your loved ones life worth? you think we should bust our rear ends making it through this grueling school for nothing you want everything to be free you better go live in rainbow land because nurses and doctors want to help people it’s true but no one does anything for free what your going to end up with is a critical shortage of nurses again as well as doctors because people are going to go into other professions then what you have overstocked hospitals with people who aren’t getting the care they need. if you all want nurses and doctors to do it out of the goodness of their hearts then you sacrifice 4-5 years of your life to be a nurse to work for dirt pay or better yet go to school for 8+ years to be a doctor that gets paid less then a car sales man better yet what ever your job may be walk into work and say you know what you are paying me way to much how about you cut my pay and i’m going to work cheaper for you out of the goodness of my heart lets see how many of you do that!

  2. Brooke March 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I myself am an RN, and if you are a nurse in a hospital, you will understand just how difficult and stressful our job is. We are frequently mentally, physically, emotionally drained by the end of the day. I became an RN because i love the work, but also because i am a single sole supporter of the household and i have mouths to feed, including my own. If this Obama Care cuts wages for nurses, many nurses will lose their homes, because God knows the mortgage isn’t going to get cheaper. If i was okay with making lower wages i could very well have picked an easier profession than the one i am in. I was always raised to be self sufficient and independent, and for others who don’t have insurance, they need to find their OWN way to make that happen. They don’t need to bring the rest of the country down with them, and that is the direction this country is going.

  3. jm September 11, 2009 at 10:30 am


  4. David Dell September 10, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I am going back into nursing, after being a programmer for 15 years. That was a soulless job, which is why I am returning to nursing. I personally am for healthcare reform, but the root cause of our issues are simple to address…we don’t really care about each other. We pretend; but, really we don’t. If we collectively cared for each other, healthcare would not be an issue. Neither would education, or the hungry, etc. What we do care about is money. Profit is the motivating factor that drives all we do, and we can see where it has led us. Financial collapse, a raped Earth, a deathly transportation system, etc. We have way bigger problems than healthcare, and until we stop fighting over who gets what, we’re screwed. I hope we can figure this out before we completely collapse as a civilization…but I doubt it. So, I’ll collapse along with it, but I figure I’ll do some good as a nurse along the way. A Christian nation this is not!

  5. Erin September 1, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    As an RN in a local for profit hospital, I KNOW that our healthcare system has to change. Medicare will be cutting payments to Cardiologists and Oncologists.

    How can our patients, mothers,fathers,husbands and wives possibly get quality care when Medicare is going to cut payment to the doctors AGAIN. The doctors who provide the BEST quality care deserve to be paid what they are worth,they deserve an increase, not having their payments cut.

    There is talk that these QUALITY doctors no longer will accept medicare patients (I dont blame them), Who will accept Medicare patients? Not all doctors are alike… some of them just Do Not Care about YOU…They will be the ones taking Medicare patients.I would hate to have to need a heart catherization and lie on the table of one of these incompetent doctors.. I have seen what happens to these patients…… Please pay doctors what they are worth… The nurses will follow with good quality healthcare.

  6. Benjamin August 22, 2009 at 10:01 am

    It is a wonderful thing to see so many minds think freely on this topic. One must stop and wonder why so fast? Within the first six months of office our Gov. has tried to take control of our day to day lives. They have taken control of some of our banks and insurance agaencies. They have taken control of some of our manufacturing. Since the early 90s our Gov. has let the world leach off of the benefits we enjoy because of those who fought hard to get us to where we are today. The Gov has given us reasons as to why spend so much money so fast and it sounds reasonable. Frankly it is not working. If one stops and puts any thought into what is happening it won’t. The last hurdle our Gov has to jump to overtake the middle class is healthcare (RN and Doc alike). Our Gov just has to enforce things that are in place already. There is no way to pay for any of this. It is impossible. Medicare and Social Security were plans to help the elderly NOT health care as people here have said. Medicaid and welfare was set up as a temoraray means for people to get by until they found employment and their own insurance plan. Citzens of this country should not be the scape goats of a Gov. that won’t listen to its people and continues to fail. Why do people feel that it is OK for the Gov to have a seperate system than the people. How hard is it to realize that what is happening to this country in these six months will destroy the way of life we know now. Just stop and think. Why so Fast?

  7. jm August 6, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    EDITORS’ NOTE: This comment thread is now closed. This is an issue that brings out strong feelings in our readers. We appreciate all your comments on this issue, especially the many that are civil and respectful of others with opposing positions. Personal attacks, however, and excessive verbal heckling will not be tolerated here, and those who continue to indulge this strategy will be banned from further commenting.

  8. Susan RN August 5, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    I’m against this Health Care reform bill, HR3200. I read the bill, there is a lot of good funding for Nursing Education in it, that is one positive. However, there is so much proposed funding, where is this money coming from?
    Also, there are proposed formations of “councils” and “committees” made up of health care workers, “union members” and “community representative”. Since when did we give up the direction of health care to unions and commuity representatives? We are not planning a county fair, health care is life or death. These committees are responsible for monitoring, assesing, and researching, RN’s are you really ready to have someone else doing THAT for YOUR profession?

    The government option will be cheaper, 5 or 10 years from now, ask yourself what will this do to private insurance? Will it possibly out-price private insurance…then what????

    I was born in 1964, the last year of the Baby Boomers, I am a long way away from retirement. HR3200 has HUGE Medicare cuts over the next several years, what will that do to quality of care for the increasing elderly population? WE ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN THE HOSPITAL WHEN ADMINISTRATION MAKES ‘CUT BACKS’…decrease in RN staffing, decrease in supportive staff and NURSING RESEARCH has shown increased mortality of patients with higher patient loads for RNs.

    Yes, I hope that someday, everyone will have health insurance. The government should fix what is broken, not take over our innovative, excellent health care system.

  9. Madeleine Mysko August 5, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Terri, may I take a crack at sharing with you what about universal healthcare excites me and makes me push for it.
    1) I believe healthcare is a human right, and therefore I think it morally wrong when profit-makers set the rules about who is “in” and who is “out.”
    2) I believe in the democracy upon which this great nation was founded, and therefore I believe that my elected officials are ethically bound to work for the common good, and that common good would include healthcare for every single citizen, regardless of pre-existing conditions.
    3) I believe a healthy nation is a strong nation.
    4) I was once, briefly, an Army nurse, and therefore I know a little about how the government operates, both when it comes to waging war and when it comes to taking care of the bodies broken in war. The government did a fine, efficient job on the burn ward where I worked. Nobody asked anybody if anything had been pre-approved.

  10. Terri Manack August 4, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    While that sounds very encouraging to nurses that want to expand their role as healthcare givers, I’m not feeling it. I can’t see this as a equitable trade. Maybe that IS a silver lining for nurses but aren’t we being more than a little self serving to think accepting state run healthcare justifies it? We’re still drastically short of nurses in the trenches and then when advanced degrees look more appealing, we’ll have an even greater shortage as nurses leave to persue those degrees and practices. Is there a plan to fill the void … or are we being impetuious in leaping toward this all-or-nothing program in an effort to gain more autonomy in our practice?

    I need to move along here in a bit. But I am sincerely interested in what else you can share with me about universal healthcare that excites you and makes you want to push for it? What do you see as the benefits and how will this place us in better stead with providing quality care to patients?

  11. jm August 4, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Another way of looking at it: reform may open doors for nurses to step up and take a new role in the health care system. This article cites a couple of pieces, including one recently published in Time, that argues that nurse practitioners may have a vastly expanded role to help deal with the influx of new patients if reform passes.

  12. Terri Manack August 4, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Here is a more recent crisis that demanded concessions because of shortfalls. God help us when the hospitals actually begin acepting less money for medicare and medicaid.

  13. jm August 4, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Interestingly vivid comments, but highly speculative. Nursing associations, most of which support some version of reform, have increasing clout, and will make sure nurses get what they deserve. No doubt the AMA, never shy about asking for what it needs, will make sure physicians don’t suffer unduly either. It’s easy to criticize, but who will seek out pragmatic solutions? Will any solution be perfect? Not a chance. But the alternative of just letting things go from bad to worse is truly scary.

  14. Terri Manack August 4, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Okay, here’s my take. Please google “hospitals make concessions on Healthcare” and you will find that hospitals have offered up 155 BILLION dollars in concessions over the next ten years on Medicare and Medicaid reimburement. Our hospitals are asked to take a hit as their “contribution” to implementing government run healthcare. The hospitals are just limping along as it is, where are they going to find 155 BILLION dollars to offer up at the sacrificial alter of Obama Care? Let’s see, conventional wisdom is that nursing salaries are the hospital’s largest annual expenditure and according to Marxist ideology, the ones making the most will contribute the most. I dont need pictures and pie charts to tell me where this is heading.

    The hospital’s will initially need to ask for “concessions” from it’s staff in the form of lower pay to get this thing going with the hope that once this doondogle get’s underway hospitals will make it up in volume. So along the way to prosperity we will be paid less while asked to progressively do more and more and more. At some point we may even make more than when this all started, but at what cost to patient care and our own health? There simply aren’t enough doctors, nurses, and facilities for the patients that will be demanding care. It’s a house of cards …. simply not sustainable.

  15. jm August 4, 2009 at 10:30 am

    One last time: Is there a source for all of these claims that nurses will somehow be expected to work for nothing? I think nurses would like to know where they are coming from, since nothing in my research confirms this to be the case. At the same time, the continued existence of the nursing shortage in coming decades has been documented repeatedly in research published in AJN and elsewhere, and will surely continue to make nurses much in demand and able to command a fair wage for their labor.

  16. Jack August 4, 2009 at 12:33 am

    All due respect to Mike and Macy, we’re not superheroes. This notion of “I’m a nurse and I’ll make any sacrifice for my patients” is very noble, and if you’re in the position to do that, I applaud you. But I have a family and a mortgage. I love my job, but if I can’t put food on the table, I’m going to start looking for something else. From hearing my co-workers, I know I’m not alone in this. I can’t imagine health care will be served too well with a mass exodus from the profession.
    I’m all for everyone getting access to health care. But you can’t tell me there’s no way of accomplishing that without slashing our pay to the point where we make less than a manager at McDonald’s.

  17. Terri Manack August 3, 2009 at 10:57 am

    You make another great point … once you initiate this grand experiment, there’s no turning back, is there?

  18. jm August 3, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Thanks for your thoughts. Does that mean you advocate getting rid of Medicare? It’s not really clear from your comment.

  19. Terri Manack August 3, 2009 at 10:50 am

    You’ve GOT to be kidding me! I’ll say again, the American government has no place in healthcare. I especially love how you use Medicare as the example of the shining beacon on the hill. What? Have you not paid attention to how Congress has destroyed Medicare? I know that this may be a shock … but believe it or not there are millions of Americans that feel Medicare should never have been instituted, either. Show me in the Constitution where the federal government is granted powers to demand money from citizens to fund healthcare.

    If the omnipotent ones in DC had left Medicare funds alone and not placed it in the general fund I could turn a blind eye to the violation of power. But they have robbed Medicare and have denied baby Boomers from ever seeing any benefit for our contributions. They play with our money like it’s their money. The only true responsibility of the US government is to keep us free, period. If you trust them to take care of you and your healthcare needs, that’s your business … this citizen knows better.

  20. jm August 3, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Thanks for all the comments. Two brief responses: one poster noted that “government has no place in health care.” This is, I’m afraid, inaccurate. Medicare is a government program, to name just one. There was a time when we didn’t have it. Were people really better off then? Are you suggesting we should get rid of it?

    In answer to Meredith: you are one of many to assume that you will be taking an enormous pay cut if any kind of health care reform is implemented. But where are you getting this information? We’d love to know, since we can’t find one reliable source that states that nurses will take a pay cut if a reform package actually goes forward. And many nursing organizations have expressed wholehearted support for the administration’s reform plans, partly because of the respect shown to nurses and their expertise in these plans.

    Jacob, AJN senior editor

  21. Meredith August 2, 2009 at 7:21 am

    I’m sorry. I have been reading some of these comments and I think some of them are off base, (i.e. mike). I am an RN. I went into not only because I wanted to help my fellow man, but BECAUSE at my young age I thought it was decent money. I quickly learned that even $25/hr isn’t enough for the abuse we have to take a lot of the time, especially in emergency nursing. Also…I have a bachelors degree…that I am still paying for I might add. So, I am supposed to be “noble” and take a giant paycut for health care reform…but still be expected to perform the same duties. Somehow, I just don’t see how that is supposed to be O.K. Or how any RN can look at that and think that it is O.K. Most of us still have families to support, student loans to pay back, ect. I am starting my masters for Nurse Practitioner this year, but if I am going to make no more than I am now as an RN in the long run with this health care reform, why the heck would I want that responsibility…not to mention the expense of graduate school!! While I am on a role here I might as well add I think restricting Dr. salaries is ridiculous also. They have worked hard to get where they are…especially if they have specialized. So I am sorry (well no I’m not) if I don’t feel bad for those people who CHOOSE not to be, (not to be confused with those who are trying), productive members of society and cant/wont pay for their health care. I wont deny that there should be some changes to our system, but what Obama is suggesting is not the answer, and I PRAY that never happens.

  22. Terri Manack July 28, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    So much for Tort reform … they have made a provision for “Bounty Hunter” lawyers to ratchet up the law suits. Yeah, this will save money.

  23. Terri Manack July 27, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Here is the site for a pdf format of the proposed bill, all 1018 pages:

    End of life counseling begins on page 425

    By the way, when they say that private insurance will still be available it’s with the express intension of making the private insurance mirror exactly, the “goverment qualified plan” … so essentially we all end up with the same care regardless of ability to pay. Well, all of us except Congress who have opted to exempt themselves from this bureaucratic mess.

  24. Terri Manack July 27, 2009 at 10:32 am

    The United States is a federal republic. Government has no place in healthcare. The system is broken and it needs reformation but socialized healthcare is NOT the answer. It needs to start with tort reform. Why do people, especially nurses, believe this bill will be the saving grace of our healthcare? Aren’t we doing too much with too little already? Is it our aim to make it impossible to care for patients?

    Nurses may know nursing but we need to educate ourselves on Constitutional Law … there is nothing in the Constitution that gives our federal government legal standing to issue nationwide healthcare. What entitlement program have you ever known the government to do well? NOTHING. How are we going to pay for this healthcare? The federal reserve is printing money as I type. Yes, you can do anything for a little while but it’s not sustainable … the only thing it will succeed in doing is ruining one of the most advanced healthcare provider nations in the world.

    Here’s something else to think about, Lance Armstrong would most likely have died in a country with socialized medicine … it’s not cost effective to treat a cancer patient with mets in counties where they are more concerned with costs. Under this proposed healthcare plan even if you have the financial wherewithal, you will not be allowed to use it because in the socialist minds of this bill’s authors, it wouldn’t be fair. Does this sound like America to you? Yes, we need reform but healthcare reform needs discussion not a bill ramrod through the Congress where no one has time to read it and understand the long term implications … if this happens, I can guarantee you there will be buyers remorse.

    I have to ask, why have the hospitals given concessions on money earned over the next several years? Are they just concerned about their “bail-out”? And you probably know that nursing payroll is the single largest expenditure that hospitals have … who do you think will be taking the pay cuts? Nurses are teachers, who do you think will be doing the counseling to the elderly in our society (anyone 60 years or older) on accepting death and how to refuse food and hydration. Ezekiel Emanual says that age discrimination is not a real discrimination because everyone was once 25 or 35, so it’s okay to deny healthcare to them. Emanual, a bioethicist tapped by this administration for input on this bill, also states that patients with dementia should not be treated. That’s not why I became a nurse, how about you?

  25. Macy July 26, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Nurses and wanting-to-be-nurses must know that nursing is a noble job that doesn’t make good money, but making sacrifices for the benefit of the patients. Should health care reform result to unfavorable cost cutting, the nurses and other medical practitioners must be the very first persons to understand the necessity of doing so.

  26. Mark July 24, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Mike– can you provide a link showing the USA is near the bottom compared to other models? I hope the stats are sound and not a rehash of birth weights etc. that in the end are only rhetoric.

    The majority of discussions I have seen citing the USA health care model as being deficient are centered on a narrow slice of topics and totally side-step the obvious benefits of having health care in the USA.

    Further, when you consider a Canadian Member of Parliament and heads of state of socialist nations have come to the USA for their health care it negates the efficiency of their models and only favors the affluent.

  27. Mark July 24, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Mike — I would not say the position of discussing cuts in RN pay is naive. In fact, PAY CUTS FOR RN’s HAVE BEEN COMMON in counties with a social health program.

    I think a bigger point of discussion should be the obvious lack of tools / resources we RN’s would have to work with when our budgets and productivity are curtailed.

    Although I primarily work with HIV and HEP C clients now, when I was in home health and OASIS hit (a government oversight program) our productivity dropped by 40%, reimbursement dropped and we actually ended up discharging patients early or turning them away.

  28. Deb Beresford July 22, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Healthcare cost reduction needs to occur at the level where health care will not suffer, through tort reform, decreases in insurance profits, decrease in regulations that increase cost but does not improve care, decrease in corporate profits. The ways to decrease costs without decreasing nursing pay is endless. Business is raping health care.DO NOT let anyone make you feel incompassionate for wanting adequate pay for what you do. Those that try are probably not a nurse at bedside but a corporate puppet.Speak up for nursing!!!!!!!

  29. seli setiana July 22, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    I believe being a nurse can put me at better place in the society, but with minimum income can’t make that happen. Many of my friends take side job as an doctor’s assistence but it make our position in health care system worse, cos people think that a nurse is just ” an assistence”.

  30. Peggy July 22, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    I welcome healthcare reform. We cannot continue on the path we are on. In 2008, the U.S. spent more than $2 trillion on health care—nearly 17 percent of our economy. Meanwhile, 46 million people are uninsured. But extending coverage is only a start. Meaningful reform will also require improving quality, a focus on prevention and reducing costs (RWJF). The USA spends more on healthcare per person that any other country in the world and yet we rank about #22 in infant mortality rates. We should be ashamed! Any one that is trying to scare us has something to lose, namely money. Big Pharma is spending over $1 million a day to lobby for their own interests.
    If you hear you are going to make $10/hr, who is telling you this and what do they have to lose?
    Healthcare reform is needed in our country, now. Opponents of reform keep talking about the cost… check this out from the RWJF-
    This puts the cost in understandable terms. Don’t be afraid- instead, talk about what is important to you, stand up and be heard!
    If you want to help as a clinician at the bedside, start thinking outside the box and do all you can to promote quality. By promoting quality, cost savings will come automatically. For example, by washing your hands appropriately you could prevent an infection that may otherwise cost your hospital $25-50,000. Each of us can make a difference.

  31. Mike July 22, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    This is blatant nievety (at best). It reflects being uneducated about healthcare reform and where we rank as a nation in healthcare vs other nations. We are nearly at the bottom of the ratings when it comes to our nations healthcare system when compared to other models in other nations.

    If pay is all that matters to you, then you don’t need to be in nursing (or healtchare in general). I work on low government salary and LOVE my nursing (MICU) job. When it comes down to it I MIGHT make $7 dollars an hour.

    Go figure.

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