Nurses’ Stories

Nurses in hospitals all over Minnesota file a Concern for Safe Staffing forms when patient safety is threatened. These forms are compiled at the Minnesota Nurses Association and document times when nurses patient loads are unsafe.

Nurses also report what they did in each case, such as call supervisors for help, alert managers that they cannot safely accept a patient assignment, or close the unit to new admissions until they can catch up.

Scroll down to read about events in nurse’s own words.

A Nurse is Not a Nurse

What happens when hospitals don’t have a minimum patient safety standard in one unit of the facility? Patients are forced into specialty areas where nurses may not be adequately prepared. This report was submitted by a nurse in the Heart and Vascular departmentl.

“Management is attempting to force us to care for a child under 10 years old, despite zero training in pediatric care. Our department does not handle pediatrics.”


Unattended and vulnerable

A Level 1 Trauma facility in the Twin Cities sees the worst of the worst trauma cases, but it has no patient safety standard. Taking a loved one there in the wee hours of the morning might be a risky option. Nurse Becky relates one harrowing night:

“From 0230 to 0400, I was the sole nurse taking care of approximately 10 patients in the emergency department.”

Becky called her supervisor for help and received no response.


A Broken Promise

Hospitals don’t always deliver the amount of care providers they claim. Without a patient safety standard, hospitals aren’t required to meet their own targets of number of nurses on duty. That means the nurses who are on duty have less time to spend with each patient. Nurse Ann works at a major metropolitan hospital and reported this circumstance:

“The night nurse stayed for the day shift. Even then, we were supposed to have 10 RNs but only had 9. Two of our patients were a Class 4, which is a very high acuity.” (“acuity” reflects the severity of a patient’s (or group of patients’) condition).

Ann called her immediate supervisor and made several other attempts to request help further up the chain of command, and received no response.



No Plans for the Unplanned

A patient safety standard allows enough nurses on duty to handle the unexpected, because hospitalized patients don’t signal their crises. This report from an RN who works on multiple units at a rural hospital illustrates the consequences of running too lean because the hospital isn’t required to meet a patient safety standard.

“The RN who was in charge of the previous shift asked if an additional nurse should be called to come in, and management said no. As charge RN for this shift, I expected to take 3 patients on the Medical/Surgical floor, but an emergency occurred in OB. I was unable to provide care to for my patients for 2. 5 hours. Another RN in OB was unable to provide care to another post-partum patient for the same period of time. During the emergency, we had no time or ability to call management for help. The hospital’s own staffing plan, which calls for 1 charge, 2 floor and 1 aide with med/surg census of 7, was not followed.”




Nurse Story

Guest column: Law requiring safe levels of nurse staffing will save lives

From MLive: By John Armelagos As a registered nurse, my top priority is keeping patients safe. So I was pleased to see MLive’s series “Invisible Threats, Invisible Victims” shed more light on the deadly problem of hospital-acquired infections. It’s important that the public also understand this piece of the puzzle: The number of patients your nurse is taking care of has a direct link to your chance of developing an infection. Not all infections are preventable. To the degree that they are, though, hospitals have an obligation to do everything they can to prevent them. One vital step they can take is to follow the medically recommended ratios of nurse-to-patients. On a post-surgical unit, for example, no more than four patients should be assigned to one nurse. When your nurse is stretched too thin, no matter how hard we…
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