Honor RNs for Nurses Week by Supporting Safe RN-to-Patient Staffing Ratios in Every Hospital
Supporting Campaigns For Safe RN-to-Patient Staffing Ratios in Every Hospital
The nation’s largest organization of nurses today called on the healthcare industry and elected leaders to provide the best gift of all for nurses as a tribute to Nurses Week by supporting proposals to help nurses provide safer care through enacting nurse to patient ratio laws.
Campaigns for safe staffing, most effectively achieved by requiring minimum RN ratios for every hospital unit – specific limits on the numbers of patients each RN can care for – continue in states around the U.S., as well as in the District of Columbia.
Additionally, a national bill was recently re-introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, S 739, with a companion bill expected shortly in the House, to be introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky.
“This year hospitals can forgo the candy and balloons, and show nurses the respect we deserve by joining our efforts to improve patient safety with the only staffing reform proven to actually work, RN staffing ratios,” said Deborah Burger, RN, co-president of National Nurses United which is the sponsor of the strongest state proposals and the national bills.
Most of the legislation is modeled after a highly successful law that has been in place in California hospitals since 2004 that has saved thousands of lives, improved the quality of patient care, and kept experienced RNs at the bedside, according to several prestigious studies and numerous first hand reports by direct care RNs.
RNs rallying for safe nurse to patient ratio law last month in Washington, DC
A prominent 2010 University of Pennsylvania study comparing California hospitals to New Jersey and Pennsylvania hospitals found that New Jersey hospitals would have 14 percent fewer patient deaths and Pennsylvania 11 percent fewer deaths if they matched California’s ratios in surgical units, and fewer California RNs miss changes in patient conditions because of their workload, and nurses have more confidence that patients can manage on their own after discharge.
A September 2012 report by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, titled “State Mandated Nurse Staffing Levels Alleviate Workloads, Leading to Lower Patient Mortality and Higher Nurse Satisfaction,” emphasized the correlation between higher nurse workloads that are associated with more patient deaths, complications, and medical errors.
While hospital executives around the country have employed their wealth and profits to lobby legislators against passing similar reforms, a vice president of the California Hospital Association, which tried repeatedly to block and reverse the California law, recently admitted hospitals didn't suffer financially "to any significant degree."
The studies illustrate why RNs across the country continue to call for adopting similar laws.
Hundreds rally in DC for safe nurse to patient ratios
Hundreds of RNs gathered at a church in Northwest Washington DC last month to rally support for the DC Patient Protection Act, introduced in February with the endorsement of 10 of 13 city council members.
“There is a patient care crisis in DC hospitals,” Deirdre Beckford, a Washington Hospital Center RN, said. “The Patient Protection Act is the answer. This legislation will save patient lives.”
The DC bill has broad community support, as evidenced by a letter sent to the council in late April signed by leaders from 43 different faith groups.
“In our pastoral duties,” the statement noted, “we often spend considerable time in our city’s hospitals and we can attest that hospital patients are often sicker than in years past and in need of nursing care more than ever. Mandating minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in the hospitals will help ensure that patients get the safe care that they deserve.”
Nurses rally in Chicago
On Monday night, RNs in Chicago kicked off Nurses Week with a rally promoting an Illinois ratio bill, the Hospital Patient Protection Act, House Bill 0012.
“Illinois nurses have seen a dangerous erosion of care standards in hospitals across the state as too many hospitals put their bottom line ahead of patient safety,” said Brigitt Manson, an RN at University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital.
“Like nurses across the country, we know there is a proven, effective remedy that will protect our patients: safe nurse to patient staffing ratios. It is time for our legislators to act,” she said.
Campaigning in Michigan
“A hospital isn’t McDonald’s, where you just wait a little longer for your fries if the crew is short-handed; we’re talking about human lives. People can get very sick, very fast, and you have to have nurses ready to take care of them,” said Scott Nesbit, a Michigan RN in support of the Michigan Safe Patient Care Act. The bill is co-sponsored by one third of Michigan House members.
“I am proud to introduce legislation that will help save the lives of countless patients by improving the quality of care in our nation’s hospitals,” Sen. Boxer said in introducing the national bill. “We must support the nurses who work tirelessly every day to provide the best possible care to their patients.”
“We want ratios everywhere in this country, so that no matter where you go, you know you will get safe care,” NNU Co-President Karen Higgins told the DC rally.
Sign our letter to the DC Mayor and Council expressing support for DC RNs and the Patient Protection Act!