A Message From ANA President
Mary Foley, MS, RN
As we celebrate National Nurses Week 2001 (NNW) May 6-12, the American Nurses Association (ANA) and its constituent member associations (CMAs) salute nurses across the country. This year's theme, Nurses are the True Spirit of Caring, reflects the many ways in which nurses have consistently delivered quality patient care and advocated for their patients despite the challenges of a turbulent health care system. By advocating for nurses, ANA advances its goal of high-quality patient care.
Safety, Staffing Set as Priorities:
A key focus of NNW 2001 is a "call to action" with regard to nurses' working conditions, particularly as they relate to nurse staffing issues and, in turn, affect quality patient care.
That's why, in addition to celebrating nursing's accomplishments this year, ANA is asking nurses across the country to join us in pushing the call button over the nation's burgeoning nurse staffing crisis. For some time now, ANA has been sounding the alarm over inadequate staffing practices and an emerging nursing shortage that is expected to worsen over the next decade as the baby-boom population begins requiring increased nursing care. And, many of those concerns were confirmed with the results this past February of an ANA Staffing Survey designed to measure nurses' perceptions of their working conditions and levels of satisfaction.
Chief among the survey's findings are nurses' concerns that deteriorating working conditions have led to a decline in the quality of nursing care. Specifically, 75 percent of the nurses surveyed feel the quality of nursing care at their facility has declined over the past two years, while 56 percent say the time they have available for patient care has decreased.
In addition, more than 40 percent of the nurses surveyed said they would not feel comfortable having a family member or someone close to them cared for in the facility in which they work. And more than 54 percent of nurse respondents would not recommend their profession to their children or their friends.
In the three months since the ANA Staffing Survey results were released, the ANA has worked closely with members of the media to publicize the impact that poor working conditions are having on the emerging shortage. Through such media outlets as NBC News, Good Morning America, CNN, C-SPAN, the New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and Modern Healthcare, the ANA has ensured that nursing's concerns are heard.
In addition to its publicity efforts, ANA has embarked on a nationwide federal and state legislative agenda, which is pushing for the following state and federal safe staffing protections:
Restrictions on forced overtime, so nurses know they will not be required to work mandatory overtime when they are tired or have outside commitments;
Increased whistleblower protections, so nurses can report unsafe conditions without fear of reprisal;
Mandated collection of workforce and nursing-sensitive quality indicators, so nurses know health care facilities are publicly accountable for the quality – not just the cost – of patient care, and for staffing levels used to deliver that care.
Establishment of patient classification systems to better calculate the appropriate level and mix of nursing staff needed to deliver safe, quality care.
In addition, ANA has been working with members of Congress to come up with ways to attract more young and mid-career people to the profession. And the results of those efforts include the recently introduced Nurse Reinvestment Act and the Nursing Employment and Education Development (NEED) Act, two bills aimed at alleviating a growing shortage of nurses in the United States.
Both bills contain a combination of scholarships, loan repayments and innovative recruitment techniques designed to prompt more young people to choose nursing as a career, as well as encourage existing nurses to increase their levels of education.
But that's not all. During National Nurses Week, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) will introduce the Patient Safety Act in the Senate and the House, respectively.
The Patient Safety Act is proposed legislation that focuses on major safety, quality and workforce issues for nurses employed by health care institutions and their patients who received care in those institutions. This bill, when passed, will require health care institutions to make public specified information on staffing levels, mix and patient outcomes.
At a minimum these institutions would have to make public the number of registered nurses providing direct care; numbers of unlicensed personnel utilized to provide direct patient care; the average number of patients per registered nurse providing direct patient care; patient mortality rates; the incidence of adverse patient care incidents; and methods used for determining and adjusting staffing levels and patient care needs.
In addition, health care institutions would have to make public data regarding complaints filed with the state agency, the Health Care Financing Administration or an accrediting agency related to Medicare conditions of participation. The agency would then have to make public the results of nay investigations or finding related to the complaint.
Complementing ANA's efforts in Congress, the United American Nurses (UAN), ANA's labor arm, has launched a Safe Staffing campaign that features NNW rallies across the country. More than 800 nurses have already signed on to "Demand Safe Staffing" through a UAN petition to be shared with policymakers, and UAN National Labor Assembly delegates will make their case for safe staffing to members of Congress during a June 26 UAN Lobby Day. And, ANA will hold another lobby day two days later, on June 28, prior to the ANA House of Delegates meeting.
The bottom line is that quality patient outcomes and a healthy RN workforce -- which are tied to proper staffing and adequate working conditions-- are ultimately more cost-effective. Thus, it pays to pay attention to and address work environment concerns.
To help achieve this goal, ANA is encouraging hospitals to shift their focus from expensive, short-sighted recruitment efforts to meaningful retention strategies.
One such strategy can be found in the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Nursing Services Recognition Program. Hospitals that have been designated as "magnets" have been found in studies to attract and retain professional nurses who experienced a high degree of professional and personal satisfaction through their practice.
Currently, only 32 hospitals have been awarded "magnet" recognition, but the essential criteria can be used by nurses and administrators to assess their own facilities for improvements.
In the meantime, the ANA will continue to sound the alarm on unsafe staffing practices in the coming year. The goal is to mobilize nurses around the staffing crisis, educate the public, and develop and implement initiatives to address the problem.
Through these various efforts, it is ANA's goal to restore the meaning to the theme of this year's National Nurses Week – to truly put the spirit -- and the nurses – back into caring. We hope, both for the nurses and for the nation's sake, that our efforts are successful.
ANA has honed its focus around five core issues to better meet nurses' and nursing's needs. The core issues are:
Workplace Health and Safety,
As ANA continues its advocacy on behalf of nurses, we need your voice. As a constituent member association member, you are a part of the ANA, the largest national network of registered nurses. And with your voice, we add strength to our message, as well as to our numbers, as we work in collaboration with other organizations that have joined nursing as partners. So, we do hope you will help us in our quest to bring nursing's collective voice together, as a call to the profession, and as we take these issues to the nation.
NNW is the perfect time for us not only to reflect upon our accomplishments and our goals, but also to put forth our ambitious crusade on behalf of better staffing and working conditions.
As we celebrate our profession and recognize our colleagues, I would like to extend my appreciation for your commitment to the true spirit of nursing and to improving the profession as a whole. Let's recommit to work together.
Mary Foley, RN
American Nurses Association http://www.ana.org/pressrel/nnw/message.htm
sounds to me like theres a lot more there than just "advanced practice". Too bad some people will just put their heads in the sand just because they dont want to believe it.