When I go into work I expect to have some shifts being more difficult than others, some patients needing more help or care from time to time, but I should never feel that my workload is unsafe. No one wants to fear going into work knowing they will be given more than they can handle.
As you are drowning in your work load and running around tending to your patients and their families, you think, is this even safe? There is so much to do, then how can it all be done and get accomplished safely? This a problem for many nurses in different types of units across the country. They need safer, mandated nurse-patient ratios that would only be possible with modernized state and federal staffing laws.
The need for safer staffing laws is not a new problem for nurses. Nurses have been asking for safer patient ratios for years because they want a safe environment for both themselves and their patients. Nurses have worked together towards legislation that can ensure a safe patient ratio.
So far, no federal law exists, and only California and Massachusetts have laws that require a specific nurse-to-patient ratio. California’s safe staffing law, California Assembly Bill (AB 394), took many years of advocacy and lobbying by the California Nurses Association to achieve having a limit on the number of patients per nurse on specific units in a hospital setting.
The only other state to follow California’s footsteps for having a law requiring a ratio is Massachusetts, which in 2014, implemented intensive care units (ICU) to have 1:1 or 1:2 nurse to patient ratios. This was an improvement for ICU nurses, but the law did not address other types of units in hospitals like California’s legislation.
Nurses should be standing together and speaking up for our shared concerns. We want to be safe in our working environment and have the ability to provide the best care to our patients. When we have loved ones who need hospital care, we want them to get the attention they deserve by their nurse. We want a hospital setting for our loved ones where they can have all their needs met and feel they can have the attention they deserve from their nurse. The nurse needs to feel confident that they can give the adequate time and attention to their patients without having to worry about running out of time.
By having a federal law for adequate staffing ratios, it will benefit those who use hospital services and the nurses who work in the hospital setting. We can ease the strain nurses feel when their shift is overwhelmed by too many patients and too few nurses. Nurses should be able to expect a certain number of patients when they start their day and patients should feel the comfort of knowing they will be attended to. Nurses should be advocating and supported by the public for a federal nurse-patient ratio so every state can ensure the safety of the nurses and patients.
Jillian Gelmetti of Trumbull is a registered nurse.