10:38 AM Eastern - Friday, March 27, 2009

SEIU RN Linda Bock speaks at Obama's online town hall

At the White House's online town hall yesterday, SEIU nurse Linda Bock thanked President Obama for giving her the opportunity to be heard and offer a front line perspective of the health care crisis. Bock expressed the importance of nurses having a voice in the solution to fix health care, to create a system that puts caregivers in charge of the decisions that affect their patients to ensure the high-quality of care.

The President also had a few words to say, expressing his appreciation for all the hardworking nurses who are there "around the clock" to provide the best care possible for their patients. Calling nurses the backbone of the country's health care system, Obama admitted, "I'm biased towards nurses, I just like nurses." He went on to address the problems facing caregivers in this country today and why we must fix healthcare now.

[...] We've got a problem in this country, which is we have a shortage of nurses -- makes no sense, given this unemployment rate. But the reason is, is because the pay of nurses, the hours of nurses, the quality of life of nurses, the fact that nurse professors are even worse paid than the nurses themselves, so that you get these huge bottlenecks in terms of training as many nurses as we want.

All these issues are part of the inefficiency of the health care system that has to be fixed. And the more we're emphasizing primary care, preventive care, wellness -- all of which will save us money in the long term -- the more that we can deploy nurses as the troops on the front lines in ultimately driving down some of these health care costs.

So I think it's very important that nurses are a part of this process.

President Obama's budget and his vision for this country's healthcare system will give more nurses like Linda Bock the chance to provide the quality of care that drew them into the profession. It will ensure an investment in preventing chronic disease, not simply managing it. It will create more healthcare jobs, to help create a better healthcare workforce of the future. By passing Obama's healthcare budget, we will expand access to care and modernize health information technology so doctors and nurses can provide highest quality of care.

Yesterday's event was the first "Open for Questions" online town hall in presidential history, webcast live on www.whitehouse.gov. Click here to watch the video of the entire Internet town hall.

Linda M. Bock is a registered nurse in Prince George's County, Maryland. She has worked for 34 years at a free senior health center and is an active part of the SEIU Nurse Alliance.

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