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Illinois Nurses are Banding Together For Safer Work Environments

What will it take for safe work conditions?

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Melissa Mills specializes in Nurse Case Manager, Professor, Freelance Writer.

As House Bill 2064 remains with the governor, five union nurses are stepping out to share their stories about high patient acuity, violence at the hands of their patients, and the need for nurse-patient ratios. Learn more about the interview that you won't want to miss.

Illinois Nurses are Banding Together For Safer Work Environments
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Nurses across the state of Illinois are demanding change. While Illinois House Bill 2064 aims to deliver nurse staffing ratios, nurses speak out to raise awareness of a variety of patient and staff safety concerns. Channel 5 Chicago aired an interview with five nurses who had a lot to say and as the anchor pointed out, “a lot to fight for.”

The union nurses interviewed work in Chicago’s intensive care units, emergency rooms, psychiatric units, and beyond. One nurse stated, “there is no margin for error in nursing, it can be life or death.” But, what happens when the life being threatened is the one that put on their scrubs with the sole purpose of helping?

They discussed patients who came to the hospital needing care for critical issues like gunshot wounds and drug and alcohol ingestion. As they discussed their typical high acuity assignments, the anchor asked them to raise their hand if they’ve ever felt threatened while at work. It’s probably not surprising to know that all five arms went up in the air.

Whether it was a knife, a verbal threat, or having phones and other devices thrown at them, these nurses all shared one thing in common - violence at the hands of those they care for each and every day. One of the nurses reported that she’s even had to press charges against a patient. Chicago hospitals have been the site of horrific crimes, like the one that played out in November of 2018 when a gunman killed a doctor, pharmacist, and police officer at Mercy Hospital on the south side of town. In 2017, an unshackled inmate took a nurse hostage at the Delnor Hospital. While a correctional officer slept, the inmate obtained the officer’s gun, took two nurses hostage and then raped and tortured one. When officers shot and killed the inmate, one was also shot.

As the interview shifted from violence to nurse-patient ratios, both the men and women reported seeing nurses with up to nine patients at a time. They’re fighting for set nursing-to-patient ratios similar to the ones seen in California.

The Illinois Hospital Association believes this request is a “one-size-fits-all” remedy that won’t keep the nurses or their patients safer. They think it will actually increase costs and limit the number of services available. Every single nurse said that striking is something they will do to get the changes they need, but also adamantly stated that they can’t see themselves doing anything else. When they spoke of patient successes, their faces lit up, and their expressions showed a sense of pride and accomplishment.

What Will it Take?

Nurses across the country are fighting for safe work environments that allow them to provide the care they feel their patients deserve. As more hospital violence happens and patients are put at a higher than usual risk of adverse outcomes, many nurses are wondering just what it will take to get the changes needed. If the governments aren’t willing to step in and mandate change, will it ever happen?

What do you think?

For a news video of this story go to Nurses Tell All.

Melissa is a professor, medical writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word. She is available for writing, editing, and coaching services. You can see more of her work at www.melissamills.net.

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I am kind of surprised. No, really surprised at not one response to this topic. As an Illinois nurse, this definitely got my interest.

As for mandating change, that is a hard one and not one that I particularly think 'we' will win. At least not until we can pull together as a profession and force this change.

It seems that our country has focused mainly on the economy, jobs and to do this, has allowed the few to ban together, form lobbies and get laws changed that only enhances the fiscal economy of owners, CEO's etc. Seems that true focus on patient care, or even good healthcare in general, is not a real thing.

Our country woke up to the 'healthcare crisis' by Obama and the new healthcare rules. It is too bad that his initiative was fully formed before passing it into law. But people did start to wake up. Unfortunately, so did those that own/run healthcare facilities. They learned even better ways to continue to make lots of money, but better patient care? No. Not even close. And as for staff, well that got worse for us as well.

Add to the fact that Obama was the first African American US president and well, people seemed to only focus on that and instead of watching what new laws were being passed, either sided with or against Obama. Therefore, nobody was paying attention to the new law. Nobody could look past color, research the law and contact their states congressman to get them to hear what was going on.

So we are here. The law is ...well, gone. People have even higher insurance rates that prior and are getting less healthcare. Many can't afford the deductables. And I know of 2 hospitals near me that are closing. Another has entire wings shut down. Many, many nurses have lost their jobs. Many more are waiting to hear if their hospital will be closed. So short staffing abounds. Corners being cut on many levels (housekeeping, closing coffee stations and even lunchrooms or shortening their hours).

How can we do this? It can't be one area of nursing at one time, then another area of nursing. The people in power just walk right over us. I think WE will have to come up with the solution. Can WE do it? Can we work together...forget about "you have 3 initials after your name but I have 4". Can we forget that one works ER, one ICU, one HH, and another in Hospice, to see the value in each other. The VALUE of our profession, and force real change? I would love to be a part of that. I would love to be able to stand tall, draw a line in the sand that no pencil pusher or Business Management Company or even CEO could argue with KNOWING that all of my fellow nurses are standing right there beside me. In agreement, as professionals, that deserve and require respect and safe working conditions. For us, as well as for patient safety.

Ahh, what a dream.

CourtneyO.RN specializes in Emergency.

If administrations are against ratios to ensure nurse safety and wellbeing, I want to see those same administrations implement other methods to safeguard staff safety. They shouldn't get to have it both ways.


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