President Hamilton responds to the Duluth News Tribune

13 Mar

MNA President Linda Hamilton

I am perplexed how some hospitals seem to fear having standards imposed on them when nurses comply to professional standards every day. (Our View: “Steer state clear of nursing mandates,” March 7).

Nurses know that hospital claims of safety records mask a precarious workplace filled with errors and near-misses. Patients suffer and die because we’re taking care of three patients even though our standards, knowledge and ethics tell us one patient needs our exclusive care.

Duluth does have a great reputation for great hospitals, and we deliver quality health care. But we’re holding on by the skin of our teeth to guarantee that care. We desperately are trying to keep our patients safe against systemic obstacles occurring beyond public view.

Those of us practicing closest to the patient believe there’s a better solution. That is the driving force behind a staffing measure.

The claim that hospitals should continue to determine staffing levels to meet the demand rings hollow when they habitually refuse to acknowledge the demand facing them. Nurses ring our own call light with our managers when inadequate staffing puts patients at risk. Too often, it goes unanswered or we are told to “make do.” Would a pilot with a burning engine on a 727 filled with passengers be told to “make do?” Would a firefighter rushing into a burning home with a garden hose?

Why wouldn’t a business, which has made a promise to its market to fulfill expectations, want to have the personnel available to handle those expectations at all times? If you are going to be in business and want to drive up patient-satisfaction scores, then figure out a way to make the full commitment. Haven’t we learned that businesses fail because they try too many shortcuts or skimp on their services?

We saw another irony with an article published on the same day as the News Tribune’s editorial extolling St. Luke’s hospital’s recognition as a 2013 Best Practices Honoree. The story rightfully tied St. Luke’s success in reducing workplace injuries to its focus on patient handling. In 2007, the Minnesota Nurses Association was instrumental in advancing legislation that required hospitals to implement patient-handling processes. Despite initial resistance from the Minnesota Hospital Association, direct-care nurse advocacy helped get this legislation passed, which is now saving money and reducing suffering — and which now is the foundation for award-winning results.

The Standards of Care Act simply would establish minimum standards for patient safety, allowing hospitals the flexibility to meet the standards and exceed them. Hospitals that already have excellent care and maintain safe staffing levels would see little change. Meanwhile, the reporting by hospitals allows the patient, the consumer, to choose the safest hospitals for their families.

As health care gets more expensive and patients and their families demand better care, we need to ensure patients receive the high-quality care they deserve. No matter where they go.

Linda Hamilton is a registered nurse and the president of the St. Paul-based Minnesota Nurses Association, the professional association and union for registered nurses.

3 Responses to “President Hamilton responds to the Duluth News Tribune”

  1. Dan Anderson March 13, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    I have had considerable experience with hospital stays and health care from a patient standpoint. I have had cardiac surgery, stomach surgery, hip and shoulder replacements ,bleeding ulcers and too many other problems to mention that required me to appreciate nurses. I have also spent many hours visiting family members who have been in the hospitals. I am not one of those people who complain a lot or are demanding of a lot of care, but ask for help from a nurse only when it is really nescessary.
    I have had experiences when myself or a family member has had to wait when asking for pain meds, to use bathroom facilities, to have questions answered, or to have a beeping IV line attended to. Simply because there were not enough nurses available. The paper work load on nurses is overwhelming, to the point they have to ignore some patient issues to complete documentation. A logical business would conclude that when you are charging thousands of dollars per day for a hospital stay, the extra money spent on adequate staffing would be a good business decision. Almost all patients would rate their hospital stay by the amount of care and attentativness of the nurses. Nurses are awesome, but there needs to be enough of them. Just like a restaurant, the total experience suffers if they are shorthanded.

    • ktandlo March 15, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

      Its refreshing when although your experiences as a patient may not have met expectations…you are capable of recognizing a staffing issue instead of blaming the nurses. Patients like you motivate me to give it my all, even when I want to throw my hands up and resign to the feeling that things will never change and that no one understands how much nurses care! I believe most nurses show they care as much as the failing system permits…

  2. Pat Hockel March 13, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Go Linda! Everyone needs to send you “energy” to keep this up! PROFITS dictate every DECISION in the business world… In Big Business, and hospitals are big business, the Medieval Feudal system has returned, “Words” say their systems value life, but their actions give the opposite message. Non-verbal messages (actions/choices) are louder and stronger than words, spoken or written. All of you, please do NOT give up the fight.

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