Who decides staffing levels? It’s not the nurses at the bedside.

Carrie Mortrud, RN

Carrie Mortrud, RN

By Carrie Mortrud, RN

As many states head into their 2016 legislative sessions, a number of articles have looked at bills being presented across the country that would help to improve nurse staffing in hospitals. Unfortunately, many of the articles mention how the discussion around staffing never seems to change. Nurses want a limit set, and management doesn’t. Nurses want guarantees, and management wants flexibility.

The truth is, and has been for a long time, management doesn’t want “flexibility” to increase staff. Management only wants flexibility so they can reduce staffing numbers to save money. That is what flexibility translates to, more money in and more profits for the hospital.

Nurses, on the other hand, want a guarantee they won’t be forced to take more patients than they can safely handle. Hospital management too often keeps the revolving door open as long as possible in hopes of staying in the black at the cost of quality, safe care for patients.

A recent article included a list of 12 questions every patient should ask their hospital. This is one I want to highlight.

  1. Ask to see the nurse manager or charge nurse if you’re experiencing ongoing issues with care or communication about your condition. The person in this role is responsible for helping patients and easing any misunderstanding or tensions that may arise during your stay.

Understaffing by hospitals affects patients every day. Your nurse or the other nurses on the unit where you are receiving care did not make the staffing decision to leave the unit understaffed. The nurses did not say “yes” to taking more patients than they can give safe, quality care to, yet someone in management did.

Ask to speak to that person. If your call light isn’t getting answered, if your questions are not being answered, if you are not receiving care, ask to speak with someone in charge. Please remember, more often than not, your nurse is trying to protect you from “feeling” the shortage, from recognizing how short staffed the nurses truly are. The nurses don’t want your care to suffer just because someone else decided the quality of your care wasn’t worth it.

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