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“When I go to the hospital I fear for my life, but lately that’s not the case.”
“I noticed that the nurses were dealing with larger patient loads than I was used to and, when admitted, a much longer wait time to enter the hospital.”
“I wasn’t getting the best possible care.”
Those are the words of Steve Romenesko, who recently testified before Minnesota lawmakers about his experience on four trips to Minnesota hospitals over the past year. Unfortunately, Steve’s experience is not unique. Across the state, patient care is put at risk every day when hospital leaders fail to staff and retain enough qualified nurses at the bedside. Despite what these hospital leaders claim (“Beware of Nursing Reforms,” March 19 editorial), legislative action is desperately needed to protect the quality of patient care and retain enough qualified nurses in our hospitals by passing the bipartisan Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act ( HF 1700, SF 1561).
While other states may face nursing shortages, Minnesota is blessed with a surplus of registered nurses, with thousands more graduating each year. Last year, the number of RNs rose by 4,000 to 122,000. But hospital CEOs have created crisis conditions for patients and workers in our hospitals that are driving those nurses away faster than hospitals. can’t hire them. Last year, more than 2,400 Minnesota nurses quit their bedside jobs at the hospital. These nurses, like those in so many other studies, polls and reports, made it clear why they left: insufficient staffing levels that compromise patient care, put nurses at risk of violence and cause moral harm to nurses when they feel they cannot provide the care they know they should.
Hospital leaders say the legislation will create a staffing crisis, but nurses and patients are already experiencing this crisis daily in our hospitals. Patients wait up to 24 hours to be admitted to hospital emergency rooms, they are treated in hallways with no privacy or call lights, and beds sit empty as hospital leaders cannot hold back staff under these conditions. Last year, the Minnesota Department of Health reported that adverse events in our hospitals increased by 33%. This means more pressure sores, medication errors, surgical complications, falls or even deaths inside our hospitals.
And since last year, nurses have reported more than 8,400 cases where understaffing threatened patient care or safety. These problems occur everywhere, from greater Minnesota to the metropolitan area. Minnesotans are paying more each year as health care costs continue to rise, but are spending less time with overburdened nurses and other health care workers providing their essential care. That is why nurses are once again pushing for legislation to address the issue of nurse retention and patient care. This bill is a unique solution in Minnesota that avoids a “one size fits all” approach, which would instead bring together frontline health workers and managers in each hospital and create staffing plans on a local basis for each unit. of the hospital. Nurses met frequently with bipartisan lawmakers and other stakeholders, including hospital administrators and the Minnesota Hospital Association, to make changes to the bill to help it work better for hospitals, nurses and the patients.
If Minnesota fails to address the issue here this year, we risk losing our qualified nurses to other states willing to take steps to ensure safe staffing levels. And we risk dissuading the next generation of nurses from entering nursing education programs, if they don’t see the changes needed to make it a career they can stay in. Worse, we risk further degrading the quality of care patients receive. in our hospitals.
More than 2,000 nurses who left the Minnesota hospital last year are ready to return to the bedside if staffing and working conditions improve. It is for patients like Steve, our loved ones and all of us who will one day need care that we must pass the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act this year, to retain nurses and protect the exceptional standard of care that all patients expect and deserve in Minnesota.
Mary C. Turner is a registered nurse at North Memorial and president of the Minnesota Nurses Association. Chris Rubesch is a Registered Nurse at Essentia Duluth and First Vice President of MNA.