In hospitals across the country, a changing health care system is forcing nurses to do more with less. Numerous logged incidents by nurses and support staff show that hospitals are not scheduling enough nurses to respond to changing patient needs—and it’s harming patient care.
At the bargaining table, nurses are trying to advocate for nurse-to-patient ratios with hospital management, but hospitals aren’t budging. Last year in Minnesota, Allina refused to include nurse-to-patient ratios in new contracts. As short staffing becomes a growing concern, nurses are striking, turning to lawmakers, or turning to the public to demand hospitals protect patients by observing nurse-to-patient ratios.
In Massachusetts, where negotiations with hospitals on staffing have continued to stall, nurses have petitioned the Attorney General’s office to include on next year’s ballot staffing limits for nurses.
Katie Murphy of the Massachusetts Nurses Association told WWLP TV, “the overwhelming comment was, ‘you mean there are no limits?’ Management has been reluctant to put these limits in place.”
The Massachusetts Nurses Association supports a ballot initiative that would ensure hospitals adhere to patient assignment limits for all hospital units, including operating rooms, emergency departments, and maternity wards.
“It is the nurse at the bedside who is best able to determine whether he or she is able to take care of another patient,” Murphy explained, “rather than somebody who’s in an office, somebody who’s not even on campus.”
In California, where two dialysis centers control more than 70 percent of the market, nurses and lawmakers have proposed a bill that would allow for minimum staffing levels so that nurses and technicians could properly care for patients. Nurses have citied numerous incidents where complications and mortality occurred to due short staffing. Today, as the bill stalls at the Capitol, nurses and the healthcare union are pushing for a ballot initiative that would set patient limits.
The text of the initiative states that “efforts to enact protections for kidney dialysis patients in California have been stymied in Sacramento by the dialysis corporations.”
Nurses and the healthcare unions say they have run out of options. They want patients to be safe—today. If hospitals won’t budge and lawmakers stall, they want the public to have the right to demand safe, quality care.
In Minnesota, there are no limits on the number of patients a nurse can be assigned to at one time. In 2016, nurses reported 3,000 incidents where short staffing affected patient care. Between January and June of this year, nurses have reported nearly 1,400 incidents in hospitals.
Learn more about how you can support safe, quality care for all Minnesota hospital patients.