CANTON, Mass. – Registered nurses will stand together for a candlelight vigil outside the State House on Thursday, united in their belief that every patient deserves the best possible care, and that because the Massachusetts hospital industry refuses to implement safe patient limits, the legislature must act to ensure patient safety.
When: Thursday, Feb. 25 at 5 p.m.
Where: On the steps outside the Massachusetts State House, Boston
Who: RNs from across the Commonwealth, including the Boston area, North Shore, Metro West, Worcester, Cape Cod, South Coast and Western Massachusetts; Patient Safety Act Co-Sponsors Rep. Denise Garlick, D-Needham, RN and Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton; Massachusetts Nurses Association President Donna Kelly-Williams
What: The Patient Safety Act (S.1206/H. 1958) will require variable, evidence-based patient limits for nurses in all hospital units. In 2014, legislation was signed into law mandating safe limits for intensive care unit patients. This bill, currently pending before the legislature, will expand on those ICU limits and dramatically improve patient safety by setting a safe limit on the number of patients assigned to a nurse at one time, while providing the flexibility to adjust staffing based on patients’ needs.
“As nurses, we take seriously our duty to protect people at their most vulnerable,” MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams said. “Patients who need around-the-clock bedside care from registered nurses often cannot speak for themselves. This vigil is their voice. Nurses know from experience that limiting the number of patients a nurse cares for at one time improves outcomes, and decades of research prove it.”
Two studies were published just last month demonstrating that patient outcomes improve when nurses have safe patient limits. One of the studies – published in JAMA Surgery – showed a 20 percent lower risk that a patient will die within 30 days of having general surgery at a hospital with above average nurse staffing levels. Another study, published in the January 2016 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Medical Care, included 11,000 patients in 75 hospitals. Researchers found that for every patient added to a nurse’s workload, the likelihood of a patient surviving cardiac arrest decreased by 5 percent.
In a survey of nurses in Massachusetts released last year, 25 percent said that inadequate nurse staffing was directly responsible for patient deaths, 50 percent blamed poor staffing for harm or injury to patients and 85 percent said that patient care is suffering because of the high numbers of patients assigned to each nurse. The MNA-sponsored survey was conducted by an independent research firm and the majority of respondents were not members of the association.
“Every patient deserves safe and essential care,” Kelly-Williams said. “Nurses fight for this every day. While the hospital industry lobbies for its own self-interest and profits, nurses stand before the halls of power and demand patient safety for all. Every day that goes by without a law in place means more preventable medical errors, more avoidable complications, increased lengths of stay and more readmissions. In some cases, it is the difference between life and death.”