Flickr | Ted Eytan
Nurses have been saying it all along: adequate hospital staffing is the key to excellent care. And get this—according to a recent poll, they’re not alone.
That’s right—though voters may not be familiar with all the particulars, like shift work disorder or compassion fatigue, they are well aware that short-staffing nurses is risky business, and when it comes to promoting a more reasonable patient load, they aren’t willing to cut corners.
In short, all those red flags nurses are hoisting into the air are not going unnoticed, and voters are lending their voices to the call for change:
A poll by the state’s largest nurses union found 73 percent of voters support a law setting a maximum number of patients each nurse could be required to care for. The union, which is advocating for legislation to increase nurse staffing levels at hospitals and in other health care settings, commissioned the poll and released its results Thursday.
Mandating higher nurse staffing levels would significantly raise health care costs, according to the opponents of the bill, S1183, which is sponsored by state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge), chair of the Senate health committee. The legislation would set nurse-to-patient standards for each hospital unit, with nurse input, allowing flexibility to increase staffing based on patient needs.
“Nurses know unsafe staffing levels will put quality health care at risk, and it turns out patients know that, too,” said Ann Twomey, president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union, which commissioned the survey conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research.
“That’s why we are fighting for a safe staffing law, so every patient gets the care they need, when they need it,” she said “The best formula for patient safety is pretty simple — listen to your nurses,” Twomey said.
The bill is opposed by the New Jersey Hospital Association, which estimates it would require the state’s acute care hospitals to hire 2,054 additional registered nurses, at an annual cost of $159 million.
So, just what exactly does this bill have to offer?
The bill would require one registered professional nurse for every six patients on a medical/surgical unit for the first year after the regulations are adopted, and one nurse for every five patients thereafter. And it would set specific nurse/patient ratios in a number of clinical areas, such a trauma units, surgery and maternity.
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