Dean Calls for New Nursing Incentives

Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean (search) — a physician by training — on Monday called for a ban on mandatory overtime for nurses and pushed for tuition assistance to help those studying for the profession.

Warning of a looming shortage of nurses, Dean proposed an increase in salaries and better staffing ratios. He declined to provide a cost for his plan, and conceded that much of it would have to be accomplished through local negotiations.

"I spent 13 years of my life with this and with senior citizens," Dean told an audience at Grand View College (search), a small liberal arts college with a large nursing program. "I haven't been in Washington and that's why we've succeeded in Vermont."

He waved a stethoscope to underscore his point.

Dean's plan also calls for setting federal minimum staffing requirements and bolstering Medicare reimbursements to pay for additional nurses, and allowing nurses to establish a practice independent from physicians, which could drastically increase the availability of basic health care in rural areas.

Dean has come under fire from some of his rivals who argue that he has been willing to cut into spending on basic health programs such as Medicare (search). With Monday's appearance, Dean sought to demonstrate he can be trusted on health issues.

"I was taught a lot of good medicine by nurses," he said.