I was dismayed to see that the town nurse position has been cut by 50% in the proposed town budget for the next fiscal year.
As I understand it, the justification for this cut is that the town nurse duplicates services provided by nursing agencies and is therefore not necessary. If I may, is this based on an analysis of what the town nurse actually does compared with professional nursing services? As noted in the town report, a doctor’s referral is necessary for their services. The town nurse, on the other hand, is available, for example, to cut toenails for the elderly (or for those of us who are surgically impaired). That’s one example, but it’s these little things that enable the elderly to remain in their homes.
In addition, the town nurse is familiar with the multiplicity of services available, and in a society ever more computerized and impersonal, personal help is invaluable. Let me speak to my own recent experience. As the result of surgery, I went from independent to dependent quite suddenly. The hospital arranged for a nurse and a physical therapist, covered by insurance, to come to the home where I was staying. However, I was not able to use the shower on my own, and I was not sure whether I’d be able to manage in my own home. Now that I am home, my problems are running errands, getting to town to do laundry. These are not considered medical needs, but they are needs. The nurse understands that, and is a ready and willing resource.
In sum, the town nurse is more than a nurse. She serves as a safety net for those in need whether the need is temporary (as mine is, hopefully, after surgery) or permanent due to age and/or disability. She knows the community; she knows who is vulnerable. She is, simply, a caring neighbor.