When nurses are forced to carry a heavy patient load because of understaffing, the first to suffer are the patients. Several speakers at a Washington, D.C., City Hall press conference Monday said that legislation to establish a nurse-to-patient safe staffing ratio would protect patients’ safety and care.
Some 200 RNs from National Nurses United (NNU) who work at several Washington, D.C., hospitals were on hand for the event and to back the Patient Protection Act D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson is set to introduce.
Bonnie Linen-Carroll, an operating room RN at Washington Hospital Center, said:
I have seen firsthand patients brought into the operating room unprepared for what they’re about to face because nurses in other units were short-staffed.
While there are plenty of qualified nurses in the metro area, hospital executives who care more about the short-term bottom line refuse to hire a sufficient number to care for the number of patients and deal with the high acuity—that is, the level of illness—of those patients. Having well-trained, experienced and sufficient numbers of registered nurses working in our hospitals is absolutely vital to the care that every patient receives.
An NNU survey of nurses at nine Washington, D.C., hospitals found that 60% said understaffing has resulted in worse outcomes for patients.
The proposed District of Columbia ratio standard is based on the successful 2004 California nurse-to-patient staffing ratio law that studies show has improved patient care.