We Cannot Treat Patients As Numbers

Karen Messier, RN, AOCNWouldn’t it be great to have the absolute right staffing every time we went to work?  This is what we as nurse managers strive for every single day. Those pushing for mandated nurse staffing ratios propose that the ratios will ensure the right staffing every day. This isn’t true. The “right” staffing isn’t a ratio. The right staffing requires flexibility at any given time during a shift. The right staffing for nurses requires the ability to assess skill sets, scope of practice and the needs of each individual patient.

I have been a full time practicing nurse for over 40 years. I have worked with staffing patterns for both in-patient and out-patient arenas.  The one thing I learned early on which has not changed is that we cannot treat our patients as numbers.  They are unique individuals with unique needs requiring complex care.  Care that needs to be provided by skilled nurses with specialty training.  None of which will happen when nursing positions are filled simply to meet a quota.  Managers will be forced to fill positions with less qualified nurses who may in fact not have the necessary skills needed for that position. What does that mean for you—our patient?

As nurses our ultimate responsibility to our patients is to “First do no harm”.  When the proposed bill is analyzed it is hard to imagine that harm will not come to patients.  Imagine what would happen in your emergency room in the event of a localized disaster. If a hospital were at patient capacity due to the mandated ratios, they wouldn’t be able to take in any new patients.  As members of the community, think about what would happen if you couldn’t get your loved one into the ER because of a government mandate. You would have to wait until others were admitted, or discharged and the staffing indicated they could take on more patients.

Imagine not being able to go to your local community hospital, the one perhaps you were born in and have come to rely on your entire life when illness or injury has arisen.  I for one cannot imagine that.  I also understand it is a potential reality if this government mandated nurse patient ratio bill is passed in November.  We as nurses and citizens have to assume the responsibility of educating the consumer.  This bill will not help hospitals, nursing homes or rehabilitation centers.  It will ultimately hurt those we all promised “First do no harm”.  Please join me and Vote no on Question #1 in November.

Karen Messier MSN, RN, AOCN 

Oncology Program & Clinical Manager

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