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Nurses rally in Thief River Falls; hospital staffing at issue

Minnesota Public Radio, 1/10/13

by Tom Robertson

THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. — A group of northern Minnesota nurses will rally in Thief River Falls on Friday in support of a legislative proposal that would set minimum staffing levels at hospitals across the state.

The rally is sponsored by the Minnesota Nurses Association and will include nurses from Bemidji, Bagley and Thief River Falls. MNA officials say improved nurse-to-patient staffing ratios would save lives.

"We believe we need a law and we need a standard to hold the hospitals accountable. We will be advancing a statewide law this legislative session that regulates a minimum staffing standard so a nurse, a patient and family can count on the fact that a shift is staffed well enough to address a patient's needs," said association vice president Bernadine Engeldorf. "We know that there's a need. I think people talk when they go into the hospital about, it's the nurse who's at the bedside who is caring for me, who's assuring my safety and my recovery, and we just want to make sure that there is enough of us there to take care of the people that are in the hospital."

The Minnesota Hospital Association opposes the effort. Hospital association spokeswoman Wendy Burt says hospitals in Minnesota are national leaders in health care quality, and hospitals and nurses share the same goal of delivering safe patient care.

"We differ on how to go about that, and we believe that staffing decisions should be kept locally with hospitals, and in fact with bedside nurses and charge nurses who are most familiar with the nursing unit, the make-up of their care team and their patients," Burt said. "Ratios are a one-size-fits-all approach that's really going to move staffing decisions away from those nurses at your local hospital, and put decisions about staffing in the hands of elected officials in St. Paul, and we don't think that that's good policy."

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