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The Medical Evidence is Clear

Understaffing of Registered Nurses is Dangerous

  • Understaffing of registered nurses is dangerous to patients. Mistakes, errors and complications become more likely when nurses are asked to take care of too many patients at once.
  • Understaffing of registered nurses is potentially fatal to patients. This has been established by the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and other prestigious medical publications.
  • The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that in a study of 232,000 surgical patients, the higher the patient-to-nurse ratio, the more likely there will be a death or serious complication.
    • Each additional patient above four that a nurse is caring for produced a 7 percent increase in mortality. If a nurse is caring for eight patients instead of four, there is a 31 percent increase in mortality.
  • A study of six million patients published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that patients without adequate nursing attention are more likely to die or suffer serious complications. The fewer patients per nurse, the better the medical outcomes.
  • Nurses on typical medical floors in Massachusetts are required to care for eight, ten or more patients at a time. Most medical professionals agree that nurses should not take care of more than four or five patients at once.

The Public Wants Safe Patient Care Staffing Limits

  • More than 75 percent of Massachusetts residents support legislation to regulate RN-to-patient staffing.
  • In just one week in May 2002, 80,000 Bay State residents signed petitions supporting safe staffing.
  • Massachusetts residents also overwhelmingly would back modest cost increases if needed to implement safe staffing.

Ease the Nursing Shortage

  • Nurses, burned out with high patient loads, are leaving the bedside.
  • One in three registered nurses under the age of thirty say they are planning to leave nursing within a year.
  • Massachusetts has more licensed RNs than any other industrialized state in the nation, so the nursing crisis can be corrected once safe staffing limits are established.
    • Only 48 percent of licensed RNs are currently working at the bedside
  • Australia saw a return of (or an immediate increase of) 3,500 nurses after nurse-to-patient safe staffing limitswere implemented.

Safe Staffing is Cost Effective

The return on investment in nursing will be reflected both in cost savings and in improvements in the safety and quality of care provided.

~ Health Care at the Crossroads: Strategies for Addressing the Evolving Nursing Crisis Joint Commission on the Accredidation of Health Care Organization (JCAHO)

Regulating nursing levels in hospitals will only modestly increase health care costs.

  • This marginal cost increase associated with safer RN staffing is offset by:
    • A reduction in patient complications – which cost the U.S. $4 billion annually.
    • A decrease in medical errors.
    • A decrease in turnover among nurses, which will save money on training costs and the hiring of temporary nurses.
  • Because patients will receive better care, experience shorter hospital visits and face fewer complications as a result of safe staffing, substantial health care dollars will be saved.

P.O. Box 309 Canton Massachusetts 02021 617.522.3461