I partially worked my way through college as a nurse’s aide at a Veteran’s Administration neuropsychological hospital in Pittsburgh, so when local talent agent Raymond La Petrie invited me to speak last Saturday to hundreds of practical nurses in Sandy, Utah (Salt Lake City) I eagerly accepted.

I partially worked my way through college as a nurse’s aide at a Veteran’s Administration neuropsychological hospital in Pittsburgh, so when local talent agent Raymond La Petrie invited me to speak last Saturday to hundreds of practical nurses in Sandy, Utah (Salt Lake City) I eagerly accepted.

The unique event incorporated a talent show comprised strictly of nurses and was produced by nurse Wayne Russell for the benefit of the non-profit United Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses. I submitted a poem that was morphed into a song and will be included in a CD to be sold nationwide. The event was a flashback to my VA days, and I came home wondering how many practical nurses, those unsung caregivers, were in our area. There are scores of practical nurse organizations throughout the country.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has counted slightly more than 700,000 practical nurses in the country. Missouri has 18,800, of whom 5,000 are employed in the Kansas City area.

The Missouri State Association of Licenses Practical Nurses, Inc., has been in existence since 1948. Lola Crum, a nurse and spokesperson for the Missouri organization, notes that her group consists of 2,000 PNs, of whom 30 are employed in the Kansas City area, including 15 throughout Independence, Grain Valley, Sugar Creek and Blue Springs.

Crum echoes their goals on their website, “We are bedside nurses, who have been trained to perform those duties which promote and enhance health and well being.”

Registered nurses on the other hand top 2.6 million nationwide. More than 62,000 work across Missouri, including 29,850 in greater Kansas City. The only difference between a PN and a RN is the degree of education, training and responsibility.

Is there a shortage of nurses? Yes, says The American Association of Colleges of Nursing: “The United States is projected to have a nursing shortage that is expected to intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows. Compounding the problem is the fact that nursing colleges and universities across the country are struggling to expand enrollment levels to meet the rising demand for nursing care.”

As for Utah, I hope the CD is a hit, and it was a pleasure being around so many dedicated Nightingales.

I give you President John Adams’ toast: Independence forever.