Letter: Hospital staffing needs accountability

Julia Morrissey, RN

By: Julia Morrissey, nurse, Ann Arbor

Opinion March 28, 2013 at 1:00 am

I'm a registered nurse who actually knows what patients need when they're in the hospital. So I was outraged by The Detroit News' distorted editorial about a bill to require all Michigan hospitals to meet minimal levels of nurse staffing (March 14, "State shouldn't mandate hospital staffing levels").

Few people realize there are no laws requiring hospitals to have enough nurses on duty at any time.

Some hospitals work well with nurses to manage staffing levels appropriately. With no accountability, though, too many purposely understaff just to save a few dollars.

This widespread practice is dangerous for patients and can even be deadly.

Dozens of scientific studies underscore what most nurses have sadly experienced at some point: When nurses have to take care of too many patients, it's physically impossible to always meet everyone's needs and prevent potentially serious mistakes.

Those studies show a clear link between low nurse staffing and higher rates of preventable problems such as bloodstream and surgical-site infections, hospital-induced pneumonia, falls, and even deaths.

The Detroit News would know these facts had they done more than rely on the hospitals' lobbyists — the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.

But as Rep. Jon Switalski, the House sponsor of this legislation requiring minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, said recently, "Without adoubt, the hospital industry has a firm grip on the Legislature."

They just want to protect their profits. Period.

The hospital industry is thriving financially. And their excuse of a nursing shortage doesn't fly: There are plenty of new graduate nurses who can't find jobs.

Hospitals have choices. Instead of inflating CEO salaries and pouring millions more into lobbying, they should put patients first and invest in nurse staffing.

Patients should be able to get quality care at every Michigan hospital, every time.

Unfortunately, it's going to take a state law to make that happen.

Julia Morrissey, nurse, Ann Arbor

From The Detroit News: