Safe Staffing Saves Lives
Nurses across this country rank staffing as their biggest challenge. As caregivers on the frontline, we know that having more nurses at the bedside means better patient outcomes and quality of care, more job satisfaction and less burnout.
Reducing Preventable Medical Errors
Safe RN to patient ratios have a direct correlation to improved patient care delivery. An academic study by University of Pennsylvania researcher, Linda Aiken, determined that for each additional patient over four in a registered nurse’s care, the risk of death increases by 7 percent for surgical patients. In hospitals with eight patients per nurse, patients have a 31 percent greater risk of dying than those in hospitals with four patients per nurse.
“When I became a nurse 7 years ago, we had 19 beds on my unit. Now we have 26 beds, the same exact staffing levels, and our patients are much sicker than in the past,”said Kim Klinger, RN, a medical-surgical nurse in Wilkes-Barre, and a member of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “I have to prioritize and make choices about what I do and what I don’t do. I provide the absolute best care that I can, but I can’t provide the highest quality or the safest manner of care when I have too many patients.”
Setting safe minimum RN staffing levels has also been shown to bring nurses back to the bedside. Similar legislation was passed in California in 1999. Since then, California’s nurse vacancy rates in hospitals have plummeted, and the number or actively licensed nurses has risen by 10,000 nurses per year, up from 3,200 nurses prior to the staffing ratios legislation according to the California Board of Nursing.
“With ratios of one nurse to four patients, RNs who have left my unit would flock back to the bedside,” said Klinger.
A Critical Patient Safety Goal
In recent years, by working together through the Nurse Alliance of Pennsylvania, we have made critical progress in establishing a safer environment for patients and nurses through the passage of Pennsylvania’s law against mandatory overtime. But we have much more work to do! As our hospitals must cope with new financial challenges, it is imperative that we continue working to keep patient care and nurse safety a top priority both within our facilities and in the halls of Harrisburg.
Do you have a story about short staffing in your facility? Tell us your story and we’ll share it with legislators in Harrisburg.