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MNA RNs Introduce 2012 Staffing For Patient Safety Act

MNAnurses.org, 2/28/12

ST. PAUL (February 28, 2012)


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Armed with new – and disturbing – evidence gathered from the front lines of hospitals across the state, Minnesota nurses introduced legislation today aimed at addressing patient safety through adequate staffing levels.

“We have nearly 1,000 incidents from the final six months of 2011 where our patients suffered and in some instances even had their lives put at risk because of inadequate staffing levels,” said Minnesota Nurses Association President Linda Hamilton, RN. “What’s even more disturbing is that in nearly 900 of these incidents, hospital management did not – in the professional opinion of our Registered Nurses – take adequate steps to remedy the situation. That means hospital administrators failed patients and nurses more than 90 percent of the time whenever patient safety issues were brought to their attention.”

MNA Nurses filled out 988 Concern For Safe Staffing (CFSS) forms during the final six months of 2011 after a new online reporting system was formally launched on the MNA website and mobile application. Copies of each CFSS form were submitted to both hospital management and MNA representatives. Of those documented incidents, 54 percent put patient safety at “High” or “Extreme” risk, according to the professional judgment of MNA RNs.

“Unfortunately, these numbers don’t represent a new problem or a new pattern of hospital administrators failing to act,” Hamilton said. “After years of broken promises from hospitals to work directly with nurses to address patient safety issues that resulted from inadequate staffing, we’ve been left with no choice but to take our concerns to the state legislature. And we’re pleased this proposed legislation has the bipartisan support of Rep. Larry Howes in the House and Sen. Jeff Hayden in the Senate.”

The 2012 Staffing For Patient Safety Act includes setting a maximum patient assignment for Registered Nurses based on factors including nursing intensity and patient acuity, and would require hospital administrators to work directly with nurses to ensure that adequate resources are provided to keep patients safe. It would also increase transparency surrounding the staffing process.

“Hospital administrators have said for years that they’re willing to work with nurses and allow us – based on our own professional judgment – to add staff in an appropriate and timely manner when our patients are not safe,” Hamilton said. “That simply hasn’t happened. And until it does, we need legislation like this to hold hospital administrators accountable and keep our patients safe.”

On June 10, 2010, 12,000 Minnesota RNs conducted the largest nursing strike in history to call attention to patient safety issues resulting from inadequate staffing in the Twin Cities and beyond. As part of the ensuing contract settlement, 14 of the state's biggest hospitals once again promised to work directly with nurses to ensure patient safety through adequate staffing levels.

Nearly 18 months later, the problem is worse than ever inside numerous hospitals across the state, according to Hamilton. Instead of keeping their word, Minnesota hospital executives even went so far as to secretly plan a three-year long PR campaign aimed at stonewalling any attempts by nurses to address patient safety through adequate staffing. The plan was uncovered in late 2010 after MNA nurses learned of a Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) memo outlining the strategy. (Visit www.mnnurses.org/Memo for complete details.)

“This is not some sort of game,” Hamilton said. “We’re talking about real people here. Real families. We had one recent example where a nurse was caring for a dying baby, but was forced to take another patient because the unit wasn’t staffed adequately. That meant this nurse was severely limited in her ability to comfort the grieving family. To begin with, a dying baby should never be paired with another infant. On top of that, think of what this must have been like for the parents of the dying child. And you know what management did in response? They ordered pizza for the nurses.”

In addition to the documented personal stories and experiences shared by MNA RNs on the front lines, there are dozens of national studies and statistics proving the direct connection between adequate RN staffing levels and patient safety, Hamilton said, noting that in hospitals with inadequate staffing conditions:

(Please visit www.mnnurses.org/StaffingStudies for a comprehensive list of all relevant studies and findings related to RN staffing levels and patient safety.)

“Keeping our patients safe through adequate staffing levels is the one issue that every single nurse at every single hospital in the state of Minnesota and across this country can relate to,” Hamilton said. “Our hospital executives can spend millions of dollars on PR campaigns and point to industry awards as evidence that staffing is adequate, but their rhetoric doesn’t match the reality of what’s happening inside too many of our hospitals. This legislation is an important step, one we hope brings about the transparency and teamwork we need to solve what can literally be a life and death issue for our patients.”

Founded in 1905, the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) represents more than 20,000 nurses in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. It is also a founding member of National Nurses United (NNU), which is the largest union of professional nurses in the United States, with more than 170,000 members. Learn more about MNA at www.mnnurses.org.



By the Numbers – Staffing inside Minnesota Hospitals
The following data was taken from the 988 Concern For Safe Staffing forms filled out by MNA RNs during the final six months of 2011:

Concern for Safe Staffing 2011 Summary

Only 9% Successful Resolution from Hospital Management

RN Judgement: Risk to Patient chart

 

A Sampling: Patient Safety Stories Shared by MNA RNs during 2011-2012
MNA Nurses fill out hundreds of Concern For Safe Staffing forms online each month. The stories below are just a few examples of how inadequate staffing conditions inside Minnesota hospitals continue to have negative – and sometimes even deadly – consequences for patients and nurses. (Note: Due to HIPAA privacy laws for patients, we cannot publicly identify the specific nurse, hospital and/or patient(s) involved in each story in this space.)

“A nurse on the unit with a dying baby was given another patient, severely limiting her ability to provide comfort to the family. Assignments were completely unacceptable. A patient who is dying should never be paired with another infant. I was unable to assist any of my co-workers and they were unable to assist me. Nurses did not get breaks, although (pizza) was ordered by management as a consolation. We want more nurses, not food! Our patients deserve quality care and they are not getting it!”

“We did have one patient fall, with significant injuries. This could have been avoided with adequate staffing. None of the nurses were able to take any kind of a break. Our patient census (count) and acuity (how sick they were) was very high!”

“One patient was impulsive and confused and was constantly trying to crawl out of bed. I had to constantly check on this patient to ensure that he did not climb out of bed. I was also taking care of a patient in same unit who was a high fall risk and extremely impulsive, and who was hospitalized due to a fall. The bed alarm did not work on this patient’s bed. At one point in my shift, when I was across the hallway in the other confused patient’s room, I saw the first confused patient walk out into the hallway. It felt like I could not give this patient enough attention because I had to make sure that patients in the other unit were safe.”

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Media Contact: John Nemo, MNA, 651-414-2863 or john.nemo@mnnurses.org

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