Nurse Staffing: Curing the Crisis

  1. Nurse Staffing: Curing the Crisis

    Inadequate hospital staffing is jeopardizing quality patient care and driving experienced, committed nurses from their profession.

    _"If you talk to any nurse, they will tell you they love their jobs," says Ann Converso, a 30-year registered nurse in Buffalo, N.Y., and a member and vice president of the United American Nurses (UAN) - the national RN labor union arm of the ANA and affiliate of the AFL-CIO. "But many of them leave because of the working conditions-one nurse for 12 or 15 patients. You can't work like that. You're prohibited from giving quality care because you're just doing tasks to keep up."

    So, half a million nurses from the AFL-CIO unions have come together in an unprecedented effort for safe staffing standards. On national Nurse Day, May 6, AFL-CIO Nurses: A United Voice for Safe Staffing Now_will kick off a campaign for federal and state legislation to set safe nurse staffing standards in hospitals.

    Nurses, legislators and consumer advocates will rally at Capitol Hill, where they will discuss the need for safe staffing standards and release a national poll commissioned by the new AFL-CIO Nurses campaign on the public's view of how the nursing crisis affects patients. During Nurse Week, May 6-12, nurses from AFL-CIO unions also will be planning meetings, rallies and lobbying visits to support safe staffing in cities and towns around the country. All nurses and anyone concerned with the staffing crisis are invited to participate in these events.

    Recent studies have shown that low nurse staffing levels in hospitals lead to thousands of preventable deaths and injuries. A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that when a hospital decreases a registered nurse's patient load from eight patients to four, the risk that a surgical patient will die within 30 days is lowered by nearly one-third.

    The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) reported the nurse shortage was a factor in 24 percent of the unanticipated events that resulted in death, injury or permanent loss of function between 1997 and 2002. In its report, Health Care at the Crossroads, JCAHO found the nurse staffing problem is a major factor in emergency room overcrowding, cancellation of elective surgeries, discontinuation of clinical services and the limited ability of the health system to respond to any mass casualty incident. In addition, 90 percent of nursing homes reported an insufficient number of nurses to provide even the most basic care, and some home health agencies are being forced to refuse new admissions.

    To improve working conditions, nurses have lobbied state legislators, urging them to mandate safe staffing standards in hospitals and nursing homes. Nurses in California successfully pushed the state to adopt staffing ratios between nurses and patients-the first such measure in the nation. Union nurses working in hospitals in more than 20 states also have won contracts that include staffing ratios.

    "Nurses are fed up with hospital staffing conditions that put our patients at risk. We're determined to do something about it," says Diane Lataille, a registered nurse in Pittsburgh.

    Last year, Congress passed the Nurse Reinvestment Act, which provides scholarships in exchange for commitments to serve in public or private nonprofit health facilities in areas with critical nurse shortages. But the act is "an initial response, not the total answer" to the nurse shortage, says Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a medical doctor. In fact, recruitment programs alone will just create a revolving door. Learn more about the fight for safe staffing and participating in the upcoming events:

    Visit the websites of the AFL-CIO unions that formed AFL-CIO Nurses:

    United American Nurses - the national union exclusively for RNs

    AFGE - Veterans Affairs Nurses

    AFSCME - United Nurses of America

    AFT - Healthcare

    Communications Workers of America - Public and Health Care Workers

    SEIU - Nurse Alliance;

    United Food and Commercial Workers - Health Care Division.________

    links at

    Updated: April 25, 2003
    Last edit by -jt on Apr 26, '03
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  3. by   Hellllllo Nurse
    Good article.
  4. by   teeituptom
    I found this to be just typical Union Rhetoric, nothing new