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Posted on Mon, Mar. 15, 2004
Set safer patient ratio for nurses
By Kathy Boehmer
Special to The Star
As a licensed practical nurse, attending a local university to become a registered nurse, the number of patients that I will be responsible for alarms me.
Many times already in my nursing career I have witnessed the dangers of unsafe staffing practices.
At the Kansas City area hospital where I work as an LPN, I am teamed with a registered nurse. Our team can be assigned to care for up to eight patients during the day shift, more at night. Looking at that number, you may think that each nurse caring for four patients isn't that bad. However, the RN is actually responsible for all eight patients.
Quite simply put, that is unreasonable and unsafe for us, as nurses, and our patients.
Safe care should be of utmost concern for patients, nurses and hospitals. That is why Missouri citizens need to support legislation that will set minimum safe nurse-to-patient ratios.
As nurses, we are educated that we are our patient's advocates. We would be doing a great disservice to our patients if we did not continue to rally to have our voices heard about safe staffing issues.
It is no secret that there is a severe nursing shortage across the nation.
Patients and family members of those hospitalized should be deeply concerned about safe staffing issues in health care today. Patients throughout hospitals make comments to their nurses about how busy they are, or that they just don't have enough help.
California became the first state to pass a law requiring a fixed minimum staff-to-patient ratio in hospitals in 1999. That law, AB 394, officially went into effect Jan. 1. The ratios set forth by this law can be found at www.calnurse.org
. Hospitals not compliant with these ratios can be fined thousands of dollars by the California Department of Health Services.
Florida, Illinois and Iowa state legislatures have also introduced legislation that would set minimum safe nurse-to-patient ratios. Other state legislatures that are considering safe staffing legislation include Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
In February 2000, House Bill 2080 was introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives. This bill would have allowed for specific minimum nurse-to-patient ratios for the nurses in Missouri.
Unfortunately, this bill has sat untouched since.
I encourage all citizens of Missouri to contact their senators and representatives and let their voices be heard on the issue of safe staffing in our state. Our voices really do count; we all must be heard.
Kathy Boehmer is a nursing student at Park University and has been a licensed practical nurse for six years. She lives in Odessa.