Empowering Nurses at the Bedside and in Business

Who Doesn’t Need Safe Staffing?

In the recent Midterm Election, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had on its ballot a referendum proposing mandatory nurse staffing.  Unfortunately, the measure was defeated with only 30 percent of the electorate in favor of the measure.

Question: Where were the nurses?

If Massachusetts has 125,000 registered nurses with an additional 25,000 Licensed Vocational Nurses, where were the nurses?

So, what happened?  The Coalition to Protect Patient Safety spent as much as $26,400,000 on scare tactics and negative ads with the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association providing over $25,000,000 of that amount.  Altogether that was more than twice the amount available to the Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care which supported the referendum with only a little under $11,800,000 available to inform the voting public.  Over $10,6000,000 of that came from the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

Unfortunately, the nurses in Massachusetts did not band together!

In order for nurses to have change, we need to unite and be together as one.  It would have been good to have a grass roots effort.

When first running for president, Obama won and did so through a grassroots effort.  He got people to the polls who actually cared about achieving results and voted to do so.

One of the criticisms was the way in which the question was presented.  I believe it was written simply and understandably.  Regardless, the benefit would have been that the patient’s get the care that they deserve and no patient is neglected because of poor staffing.

A scenario where a facility chooses not to provide a full staff or if staffing is lowered due to an illness of a nurse … that no longer would have been tolerated.  As it is now, the ones who suffer are the patients because of fewer nurses to provide their care.  Nurses in the Bay State had to deal with this every day in the past and, since the balloting, they are still dealing with it.

What concerns me the most is the reaction from American Nurses Association (ANA) President Pamela Cipriano who released this statement: “We are pleased that the Massachusetts voters soundly rejected Question 1.”

I am greatly disturbed by her stance.  On the one hand, she states the ANA has long been a strong advocate for appropriately staffing health care systems.  On the other hand, claiming she is pleased with the voting results is not in line with the ANA having a strong advocacy for appropriate nurse staffing.  Instead, ANA wants to leave staffing in the hands of hospital committees.

Should hospitals appropriately staff their facilities, there would be no need for such a proposed referendum or legislation mandating appropriate staffing.  Yet hospitals are not properly staffing in every situation.  You and I and all nurses know that.

We are the only ones who can affect change in this.  Nurses are the only ones who know this problem first hand and have to deal with it.  And we need to stick together to do something about it … for the good of those we care for.

Where were the Massachusetts nurses?

I know this ballot represents a subset of nurses in a variety of settings but remember we ALL started together, working in clinicals in a hospital and someday it could be any one of us (or a family member) being the patient lying in that bed who does not get proper care due to short staffing.

It is time for all nurses to speak up for safe staffing.  You owe it to the lives you are protecting.

I know this is a controversial topic but I invite you to share your comments below.

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