Staffing Ratios Need Everyones Attention
I was pleased to see your article (The Sum of Staffing, Feb. 8 issue) on nurse-to-patient ratios. As an RN for 34 years and an ER nurse at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia for 11 years, I can attest to the need for such ratios in Pennsylvania.
Many days, I have gone home from work exhausted and frustrated with the knowledge that I often was unable to give the most appropriate, and, at times, safe care.
As the president of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals, I have worked with many nurses across the state who have expressed the same concern about unsafe conditions and the need for ratios.
Bedside nurses know from experience that minimum ratios are the best guarantee for patient safety.
We have ratios in our day care facilities and our prisons, so why not in our hospitals where it is a matter of life and death? As nurses, we should be able to work under the conditions that enable us to apply our clinical skills, not simply juggle impossible patient loads.
We have therefore introduced a bill in the state Senate that would mandate safe, minimum ratios in hospital units, similar to California.
The chief sponsor of this bill, called the Pennsylvania Hospital Patient Protection Act, is Sen. Daylin Leach, and the bill number is Senate Bill 742. Similar legislation is in the house as House Bill 147.
We plan to have hearings and rallies and conduct a public campaign to achieve passage of this important legislation. Pennsylvania nurses and patients deserve a safe working environment.
Patricia Eakin, RN
President, Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals Philadelphia
Sum of Staffing Equals Misinformation for RNs
To say I am disappointed with the article The Sum of Staffing (Feb. 8 issue) would be a major understatement. It does not present an unbiased picture of the staffing-ratio issue for nurses to consider and merely fosters misinformation that is favorable to the industry.
We all understand that having the appropriate number of nurses on the unit is critical to safe care and the skills mix. The issue boils down to whether we, as nurses, and the public, as patients, can trust the facilities to do the right thing when it comes to staffing.
It is not an issue of occasionally shifting into high gear to handle an overload, but rather the chronic need to shift gears.
Some of the article is true. Ratios improve patient satisfaction and patient care. There is strong evidence to support improved patient outcomes, and the work by Linda Aiken appears well done.
The intangible benefit may be that nurses stay in the workforce longer, burn out less and are safer practitioners. Given a recent poll that shows 30% of nurses are considering changing career paths, this becomes critical when we consider the looming nursing shortage.
The recent emphasis on a staff nurse component of the decision-making team is a farce, and once again we will be at the mercy of an industry that already has demonstrated its reluctance to institute rational staffing. Which staff nurses are to be included? Who decides which nurses sit on these committees?
I hear it from my friends. I hear it from my students, and I read about it on blogs.
The loads are just too heavy, the acuities too high.
Its time we stop pretending there is no problem and start acting to protect ourselves and our patients. We need to become the patient advocates we think we are.
John Silver, RN PhDc
Assistant Professor of Nursing
Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
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