Some patients need to be monitored 24/7 for behavioral and mental health issues. But that is often next to impossible when there aren’t enough nurses on staff to keep track of all the patients than need help and constant supervision.
According to recent reports on social media, around 40 Orlando nurses walked off the job at Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) to protest unsafe working conditions, long hours, and chronic understaffing. The nurses left their positions in outrage after a mentally ill patient committed suicide after being left unattended. The providers say they were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements that forbid them from speaking publicly about what it was like to work at the hospital.
Now the nurses are taking to social media, including anonymous accounts like Nurse Nander, to get their stories out to the public.
A Preventable Tragedy
Records show that a patient on the eighth floor of the hospital used a bedside table to smash open the window sometime between 7:00 and 11:00 PM local time. The patient then jumped out the window and fell to their death. The Progressive Care Unit (PCU) was so overwhelmed at the time of the incident that the suicide was not discovered for several hours.
Melissa, a nurse at ORMC, confirmed to reporters that the walkout had taken place. “I can’t tell if it was 40, but I know a good number did,” she said. “I also don’t know how many returned, but even if they walked out, I would guarantee administration changed nothing or will implement a change for a month and then revert.”
State investigators were quickly called to the scene to find out what happened. The nurses on staff said the broken window was quickly replaced and that the area around the hospital where the patient fell was burned. The nurses also say the hospital increased staffing levels during the inspection to improve its nurse-patient ratios. But staffing levels resumed to their prior levels once the agents left the building, and nurses were once again forced to care for too many patients at once.
Melissa mentioned another recent patient death that she believes was covered up by the media. A patient managed to escape the hospital without staff permission. They then jumped into traffic and were hit by a car.
She says the staffing levels have only gotten worse in the weeks since the death was uncovered.
“Staffing has always been terrible, even before COVID, then it got worse during COVID and never recovered.” She added that nurses in the ICU typically care for up to four patients at a time.
“Patients who are proned or on CRRT (Continuous renal replacement therapy, or hemodialysis machines) should be 1:1, but COVID eliminated that. I worked many shifts with 3 proned patients on 2 CRRT machines going. PCU is going up to 6-8 patients, and med-surg is going up to 12-15 patients. One of the calls I was on for staffing had one unit where two nurses had 18 patients each.”
She added that the hospital has been dishonest with federal regulators. She noted that when the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) came to the facility to investigate safe staffing ratios for patients on a 72-hour psychiatric hold, the hospital “sticks one sitter for two patients, which is against CMS guidelines,” she said. “When my manager found out, she told me to lie to the auditor and say staffing was fine.”
The hospital says it will prosecute the organizers of Nurse Nander if they return to the facility after someone recently dropped off food and cards for the nurses on staff. The account holders say they have received messages from nurses at ORMC who say the hospital recently hired a large number of recent graduates to work in the ER, but it doesn’t have enough experienced nurses to train them.
“The health care system has always been fragile; staffing issues have always been present. Then the pandemic came. … In the past two years I have been verbally threatened with death, told that I’m killing patients, told that I’m inflating numbers to make COVID look worse than it is. Told that I’d better do everything to save their unvaccinated anti-mask family member or else ‘They’ll find me,’” Melissa added.
“So on top of being short staffed, we have to deal with that bulls*** constantly. I’ve had to have security walk me to my car. And then find out nurses get criminally charged for errors,” she said, referring to the conviction of Tennessee nurse Radonda Vaught over a fatal medication error, “when everyone else that makes mistakes gets a slap on the wrist. Cops shoot and kill people all the time without being charged, doctors make mistakes with zero issue; yet nurses go to jail for one mistake.”
“The volume of things required to make actual change to the profession is staggering. Administrators just expect us to pick up the slack: ‘oh, we’re four nurses short tonight. Oh, well, sucks to suck. Here’s your eight patients.’ Then they will write us up if our charting is five minutes behind.”