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Hundreds of Michigan Nurses March on Capitol to Advocate for Patients, Communities

, 3/14/12

LANSING – More than 500 nurses and nursing students from across Michigan rallied at the Capitol today, advocating for policies and priorities to heal their patients and communities.  This year’s event focused on the introduction of the Safe Patient Care Act, long-overdue legislation to require Michigan hospitals to provide minimal nursing staff in order to protect patients’ care and safety.

“Nurses are tireless advocates for our patients, and that doesn’t stop at the bedside,” said Jeff Breslin, a registered nurse at Sparrow Hospital and president of the Michigan Nurses Association. “We can take great care of people while they’re in the hospital, but elected officials are the ones with the power to make broad changes that can improve lives and heal our communities. We’re here from all across Michigan to tell Lansing politicians to make constituents – not corporations or their own interests – their top priority, just like nurses put their patients first.”

The nurses’ march and rally followed a morning of activities focused on learning how to use political activism to effect change that benefits their patients and promotes public health. The event was sponsored by the Michigan Nurses Association, which represents more than 10,000 registered nurses statewide.

Legislative priorities for Michigan’s registered nurses include:

  • The newly introduced Safe Patient Care Act (HB 5426, sponsored by Rep. Jon Switalski, D-Warren, in the House and Sen. Rebekah Warren D-Ann Arbor, in the Senate), which requires hospitals to develop a plan that incorporates minimum patient-to-nurse ratios and also bans mandatory overtime for nurses;
  • Legislation to increase penalties on those who assault health care professionals when they are performing their duties for the benefit of a patient (SB 642 and 643, sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge and Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township);
  • Protecting collective bargaining so nurses have a voice in the workplace; and
  • The Main Street Contract for the American People, a nonpartisan campaign to force politicians to put the interests of working families above those of corporations and the wealthy. The campaign calls for investing in priorities to rebuild on communities, including jobs at living wages, quality education, health care for all and a just taxation system, including a minimal tax on Wall Street transactions.

The need for the Safe Patient Care Act is especially urgent, as nurses today are dealing with patients who are sicker and suffering from more complicated and severe conditions. Nurses are also often under more pressure to discharge them sooner.

Studies show that inadequate staffing levels for nurses lead to a higher death rate, infections, pneumonia, falls and other dangers for patients. Minimum nurse-to-patient ratios can save thousands of lives while saving hospitals millions by avoiding bad patient outcomes and nurse turnover.

“It’s outrageous that day care centers have staff ratios but when your loved one is intensive care, there is no law requiring the hospital to maintain a safe level of nursing staff,” said Marietta Brooks, a registered nurse from University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor. “Nurses will work until they fall over, but when staffing is short, something has to give. The Safe Patient Care Act is a solution that works for everyone,  and legislators need to support it and help nurses deliver quality care to each and every patient.”

Key research on nurse staffing and patient care

“Nurse Staffing and Inpatient Hospital Mortality,” The New England Journal of Medicine, March 17, 2011; http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1001025

“Implications of the California Nurse Staffing Mandate for Other States,” Health Services Research, April 20, 2010; http://www.nursing.upenn.edu/chopr/Documents/Aiken.2010.CaliforniaStaffingRatios.pdf

“Nurse Staffing In Hospitals: Is There A Business Case For Quality?” January 2006, Health Affairs, http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/25/1/204.full

See also additional studies cited in testimony here: http://minurses.org/files/files/Legislation/Testimony_Fletcher_080509.pdf

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Source article on Michigan Nursing Association's blog.

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