One of the most serious issues that the Oklahoma Nursing Board faces inolves nurses stealing prescription medications. It disciplines licensees by the hundreds for nursing code violations every year.

Oklahoma Nursing Board president and registered nurse Lauri Jones confirmed that diversion of addictive drugs in nurses is a common issue the board deals with. She said that practice and drug related issues plus abuse and neglect of patients are the most serious issues of the board. Other nurses even use fraud to get the drugs.

"When you have an addict, you have a person who is going to manipulate systems and people," Jones said. "If you have an addict as a practicing nurse, they're going to manipulate whoever they can." A study covering a 10-year period that ended on Mar. 31 shows that some nurses used their position to get drugs or paid an expensive sum to steal it.

Another widely reported nursing issue could be shortage. According to recent reports, a request for open records of the Oklahoma Board of Nursing showed 74,656 licensed nurses in Oklahoma. The increase is over 22,000 over the last decade.

Executive director Kim Glazier of the nursing board said panic in the year 2004 or 2005 caused the increase when reports showed of a looming shortage of nurses to take care of the aging people born from 1946 to 1964 otherwise known as the baby boom generation. Glazier said there were many reports about the shortage at that time but she was a nurse long enough to understand that these shortages are cyclic. She added that an increase in number of nurses happened in 2008 because of the recession that sent many licensees back into practice. However, this time is different and it could go at a critical level.

The ranks will likely continue to be high in the future and retention programs along with all efforts done to draw people's attention to the nursing shortage in 2004 or 2005 could keep it high. Many entities did a lot of work to increase nursing enrollment and people coming into the profession so the numbers might not go back down in the near future.

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