When No One is On Call

20 Aug

Bravo to Theresa Brown, RN, for writing an eye-opening Op-Ed, exposing the dangers faced by patients when not enough nurses are on duty.  The New York Times published her opinion on Sun., Aug. 18, which puts this issue front and center, where it should be.   Read the OpEd here.  
We encourage you to read the entire piece, along with the Comments Section AND participate in the online discussion.
Brown mentions only one piece of legislation being considered by Congress to address the issue of poor staffing levels, but it is important to know that efforts are being led by nursing communities (including National Nurses United) to advance other bills on the federal and state levels as well.
In April of this year, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), introduced the National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act, (S 739) and its companion bill in the House, authored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky,  Safe Nurse Staffing for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act (HR 1907).
If passed, the legislation would protect the rights of nurses to advocate on behalf of their patients, establish minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals and invest in training and retaining nurses to address the nationwide nursing shortage.
“I am proud to introduce legislation that will help save the lives of countless patients by improving the quality of care in our nation’s hospitals,” Sen. Boxer says. “We must support the nurses who work tirelessly every day to provide the best possible care to their patients.”

Specifically, Boxer’s bill would:

  • Establish minimum nurse-to-patient ratios that will save lives, improve the quality of care and help to address the nursing shortage by creating a work environment that encourages nurses to remain in the hospital workforce.
  • Provide whistleblower protections to protect the right of nurses to advocate for the safety of patients and report violations of minimum standards of care.
  • Invest in nursing mentorship demonstration programs to better prepare nurses for work in a hospital setting.

4 Responses to “When No One is On Call”

  1. Kathleen Lehman August 20, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    I applaud both the writer of the article and the NYT for placing it front and center. However, what is in the best interest of the patient is for there to be an appropriate number of nurses at work on every patient care area that appropriately meets the needs of every patient on that unit AND allows for the “what if” situations. After all, a hospital is not a static environment. There is a daily ebb and flow in patient numbers. There are admissions, discharges (through the E.D. and direct admits from clinics, nursing homes, etc.), births, deaths, and changes in the acuity level in the current patient population. The needs of patients and their nurses can change in a heartbeat – literally! It is not appropriate to have staffing so tight that existing staff cannot properly absorb and safely manage this minute-to-minute ebb and flow. A nurse who is at home on call is not readily available to her co-workers or the patients, and great irrepairable harm can result. Utilizing on-call nurses as a regular staffing solution is NOT the answer. If additional nurses are consistently needed, it is an indication that more nurses should be consistently scheduled for work. Period.

  2. Julianne Uzlik August 20, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Where are we with the federal legislation? Still in committee? If so, what committees and who are the committee members so we can email?


    Juli Uzlik, RN Fairview Southdale Hospital

  3. veronicacheney August 24, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    Reblogged this on A Nurse's Life .

  4. Theresa Brown, RN August 27, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Thanks for the thoughtful re-post and commentary on Barbara Boxer’s bill and the value of staffing ratios. I support ratios, too. What I most like about the Capps/Joyce bill is the public reporting piece of it. That bill offers flexibility, ratios offer guarantees–both can have value in the clinical setting, and both can have drawbacks. Either way, glad to be part of this important discussion and work to support nursing.
    Theresa Brown, RN
    author of “When No One is On Call”

    P.S. Just reposted your column to fb, twitter.

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