Why are nurses across the country fighting for staffing ratios?

In September, nurses at a chain of hospitals in California held rallies at 21 Kaiser Permanente’s hospitals and clinics to highlight short staffing that is harming patient care.

Since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2011, the hospital chain saw an increase of a half a million patients, but hospital administrators haven’t hired new nurses to meet the growing patient demand.

“They need more nurses to provide care for patients both in the clinics and in the hospitals,” said Deborah Burger, California Nurses Association co-president. “Our patients are essentially going without care so that Kaiser can make money.”

Kaiser isn’t the only hospital organization in the country to short staff nurses in the wake of an ever-changing healthcare system. In Massachusetts, nurses recently held a forum to highlight for lawmakers how nursing care is changing as patients are sicker, older, have more complications, and are often addicted. Nurses at the bedside are more important than ever, but hospitals aren’t scheduling enough nurses to meet the patient need.

Nurses there are asking lawmakers and the community to support the Safe Patients Limit Ballot Initiative, which would require a maximum limit on the number of patients assigned to a nurse at one time, while providing flexibility to hospitals to adjust nurses’ patient assignments based on specific patient needs.

As hospitals cut corners on costs, nurses across the country are asking lawmakers to help protect patients and reduce their risk of complications, infections, longer healing times, and mortality associated with short staffing. In Minnesota, nurses reported 3,000 incidents in 2016 when patient care was compromised due to short staffing.

In the first six months of 2017, nurses cited nearly 1,400 incidents of short staffing affecting patient care. In Minnesota, there are limits on the number of children per caretaker in daycare and requirements for the number of EMTs, but there are no limits on the number of patients a nurse can be assigned to at one time. Nurses are asking lawmakers to help ensure hospitals schedule enough nurses to meet patient needs by supporting Quality Patient Care Act, which would establish safe nurse-to-patient ratios for all hospitals.

Learn more about how you can support safe, quality care for all Minnesota hospital patients.

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