El Dorado News-Times
New poll shows law needed on nurse-patient ratio
It’s long been known that providing skilled nursing can be among the most demanding jobs. At the same time, it’s crucial to keep enough nurses working in the profession to meet public health care needs.
So finding ways to attract and retain nurses is essential to making sure our hospitals and clinics are fully staffed and not dangerously overburdened.
A new poll of registered nurses in Michigan indicates many would be more likely to stay at the bedside if the state were to pass a law limiting the number of hospital patients each nurse can be assigned, according to the Michigan Nurses Association.
“Hospital understaffing of RNs was bad before the pandemic and has only gotten worse,” said Jamie Brown, MNA president and a critical care nurse. “The poll shows that this years-long trend has taken a toll on patients and nurses alike. Hospital executives cannot be trusted to regulate themselves. To truly address this staffing crisis, legislative action must be taken to hold hospitals accountable. This poll shows that nurses will continue to leave the profession until reasonable limits to the number of patients a nurse is assigned are in place.”
In a news release, the MNA said no law, state or federal, exists that sets safe RN-to-patient ratios in hospitals, leading to RNs having too many patients at one time too often. This puts patients in danger and drives nurses out of the profession, the association argues.
Legislation to set safe limits on hospital nurses’ patient assignments – known as the Safe Patient Care Act — is pending reintroduction in the state Legislature, according to the MNA. Findings in the poll include:
— Seven in 10 RNs working in direct care contend they are assigned an unsafe patient load in half or more of their shifts.
— More than nine in 10 RNs say requiring nurses to care for too many patients at once is affecting the quali
ty of patient care. The number who say they know of a patient death due to nurses being assigned too many patients nearly doubled, from 22% in 2016 to 42% in 2022.
— Requiring set nurse-to-patient ratios could also make a difference in retention and in returning qualified nurses to the field. Three-quarters of nurses now working in direct patient care say they would be more likely to stay if such legislation passes, while nearly four in 10 of those who have left say they would be more likely to come back.
— The vast majority of RNs blame working conditions for the staffing crisis, rather than a shortage of qualified RNs. According to the MNA, government data shows nurses’ perception of the cause of the staffing crisis is correct. As of Jan. 11, Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs reported the state has 154,758 RNs with active licenses. Yet the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists only 102,480 people who are employed as RNs in the state. “This means that a full one-third of RNs with active Michigan licenses are choosing to not work as nurses,” the association stated in its news release. “The staffing crisis will never be adequately addressed until working conditions at hospitals are improved. Making nurses take care of too many patients is irresponsible and will lead to nurses continuing to leave the bedside,” Brown said. “Nurses have witnessed hospital CEOs making millions of dollars while the quality of care has declined. Our current system is broken. To keep patients safe in our hospitals and keep nurses working at the bedside, we need legislators to take decisive action and pass the Safe Patient Care Act.” The poll was conducted by Emma White Research and commissioned by the Michigan Nurses Association. It has a margin of error of +/4.9%. A full report on the poll results is available at www.misaferhospitals.org/poll. The Michigan Nurses Association has about 13,000 members across the state. MNA is an affiliate of National Nurses United and the AFL-CIO.
— Iron Mountain Daily News, Feb. 3