Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami, said students looking for a job in the struggling economy should go into health care.
Shalala spoke to an audience of about 700 at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on Tuesday about the future of the U.S. health care system and the roles that nurses play.
“There are going to be a lot of jobs all over the world and a lot of opportunities,” Shalala said.
“It’s a very exciting time in health care, and I can’t think of a better time to be going into health care.”
Shalala, who has had more than 30 years of experience in the health care field, spoke about how nurses can help meet the increasing need for more health care providers at UNC.
She served as the Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton for eight years, which is the longest time anyone has served in that position.
“We’re going into the golden age of nursing. I think it’s a wonderful profession to go into,” Shalala said in an interview.
Lizzie Stephens, a first-year student in the School of Nursing, said Shalala’s speech was inspiring.
“The next 10 years are going to create a big period of change, and it’s exciting because that’s my profession and that’s what we’re all going to be a part of,” she said.
Shalala said the health care system is in need of reform, and that can be accomplished by restructuring how nursing professionals are trained.
She said nurses are not performing to their highest potential, which can be addressed by offering quality training and equal representation of nurses in leadership positions.
“We can’t have a great health care system unless everyone can work up to their training,” she said.
“I think that nursing is the most adaptable profession in health care — I think the rest of health care needs to adapt.”
She said that other health professionals have to see nurses as partners in order for the system to move forward.
“We can’t redesign the health care system so it’s seamless for all of our patients unless nursing plays a leadership role and a very critical role,” Shalala said.
“We need to use everyone in the health care system to the extent of their training … and nurses are the glue that is going to give us a patient-centered health care system,” she said.
Kay Hengeveld, a UNC graduate, said Shalala’s lecture was reflective of her own views about the nursing industry.
“The delivery of the health care system in integrating is, to me, what’s going to happen — what needs to happen — and I think that she did it very succinctly,” she said.
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