Apr 10, 2014
12:51 PMHealth & Science
Safe Staffing: Connecticut Nurses Lobby for Hospitals to Report Levels
When nurses and other medical professionals take the Hippocratic Oath following graduation, they swear to do no harm and to practice medicine ethically to the best of their ability.
However staffing shortages at hospitals in Connecticut—including New Milford and Danbury, hospitals that have been affiliated since 2010—has made doing so more difficult, as argued by proponents of a proposed bill that would require hospitals to report staffing levels quarterly to the Department of Public Health.
Mary Consoli, president of the Danbury Nurses’ Union, AFT Local 5047, said at Danbury Hospital it’s not unusual for nurses to be responsible for eight or nine patients during their shift.
See the video below from the website of Safe Staffing Connecticut:
“You cannot access and monitor the status of patients as well as you could do if you had five patients,” Ms. Consoli said. “You might have someone [a patient] that’s confused. They may climb out of bed and then fall. You have to be able to turn them every two hours and assess them. Having that volume of patients [means we] are not able to meet that level of need. We can do adequate care but we probably do the minimum. Is it the best care? Probably not.”
Ms. Consoli said she would like to see the number of patients a nurse can take on be at a maximum of five or six during a shift. In her testimony in support of the safe staffing bill, HB 5384, Ms. Consoli reported that the hospital’s management was notified of an unsafe staffing incident in the Cardio Thoracic Intensive Care Unit. She testified that an R.N.—registered nurse—with a fresh open-heart patient was assigned to an additional patient.
“The ratio, by policy, is to be a 1:1, one RN to one patient in Open heart,” Ms. Consoli testified. ‘This did not happen. It is not a onetime occurrence. In addition, RNs in the Intensive Care Unit have had frequent triple patient assignments. This does not allow for proper monitoring and assessment of ICU patients.
“The hospital does not follow its own policy on staff assignments,” her testimony continued. “The policy states clearly that fresh ‘open hearts’ are a 1:1. And the criteria for more critical ICU patients being a 1:1 or a 2:1 was not followed. It is not best practice for ICU patients to be 3:1 ratios. Our number 1 rating for our Open Heart Program is in jeopardy with this level of staffing. Should the public know?”
Contacted for comment, Moreen Donahue, DNP, senior vice president of patient care services at Danbury Hospital, issued the following statement: "We are proud of the quality of care that we provide our patients and are delighted with the recent number-one Connecticut rating for safety in surgical care by a national consumer magazine along with excellent nursing care outcomes. We have a long and proud history of promoting our nurses and providing our patients with top notch care and will continue to do so. "
Another staffing issue with staffing, according to Ms. Consoli, “is that nurses’ shifts are often canceled without pay at New Milford Hospital or staff is reduced at Danbury Hospital and workers are paid an hourly minimum wage to cut costs.