Last week week, nurses at Berkshire Medical Center in Massachusetts held a one-day strike to draw attention to short staffing by the hospital. Under the current contract, hospital administration determines staffing levels. Nurses say administration has become increasingly unwilling to ensure each unit has safe nurse-to-patient ratios, and at the heart of the issue are new contracts that will allow for nurse management to determine patient needs.
“We would have liked to have settled this at the bargaining table,” said Mark Brodeur, an RN at the hospital. “We at this time essentially have no voice with our administration.”
In Minnesota, the story is much the same. Hospital administration—not nurse managers and nurses at the bedside—determine how many nurses are staffed in each unit. Minnesota also has no laws that protect patients from short staffing by hospitals. While there are regulations that determine how many children there are per daycare provider or how many EMTs there are in an ambulance, there are no minimum standards for nurse staffing.
Here’s why it matters to you and your loved ones—and what you can do about it.
1. In the last few years, health care has changed. Nurses are caring for more patients with more complex issues. They’re working longer hours, and with less help. Patients are being neglected. In 2016, nurses reported a record of number of 3,000 incidents where patient care was compromised due to short staffing, and 2017 is on pace to meet or exceed that record.
2. Safe nurse-to-patient ratios save lives. In fact, for every one patient increase in a nurse’s workload, there’s an increased patient mortality risk, according to a study.
3. Nurse staffing is directly associated with a reduction in medical errors, hospital readmissions, and preventable adverse events such as patient falls, pressure ulcers, central line infections, and patient mortality.
4.Higher registered nurse staffing was associated with less hospital-related mortality, failure to rescue, cardiac arrest, hospital acquired pneumonia, and other adverse events, according to researchers.
5. The CDC estimates that 2 million people are infected annually by hospital-acquired infections, resulting in 20,000 preventable deaths every year. Nurses are essential for preventing infection. A recent study found a significant association between patient-to-nurse ratios and surgical site infections.
6. When patients receive quality care, they can heal faster. What’s more, a comprehensive review of 17 studies published between 1990 and 2007 found that “significant reductions in cost and length of stay may be possible with higher ratios of nursing personnel in hospital settings. Sufficient numbers of RNs may prevent patient adverse events that cause patients to stay longer than necessary.”
For every patient, safe nurse-to-patient ratios are essential. Short staffing has a solution. Tell your lawmakers your support safe, quality care in all Minnesota hospitals.