People in Massachusetts Support the Bill
Sheet on the Patient Safety Act
Problem: Understaffing of Registered Nurses is Dangerous
have a disturbing crisis in Massachusetts. Registered nurses are
being forced to care for too many patients at once, and patients
are suffering the consequences in the form of preventable errors,
avoidable complications, increased lengths of stay, and readmissions.
November 2003, the Institute of Medicine published a report that
found that nurses’ working environments are breeding grounds
for medical errors and will continue to threaten patient safety
until they are substantially transformed. One of the Institute’s
recommendations to reduce medical errors is to raise RN staffing
Solution: The Patient Safety Act
"Patient Safety Act" calls upon DPH to set a safe limit
on the number of patients a nurse is assigned at one time. In addition,
the bill calls for staffing levels to be adjusted based on patient
needs. It also bans mandatory overtime, and includes initiatives
to increase nursing faculty and nurse recruitment. Over 125 health care and community
groups have endorsed the bill and joined the Coalition to Protect
Facts: Safe Staffing Saves Lives and Protects Patient Safety
by the most respected medical researchers affirm the significance
of safe RN-to-patient limits to patient safety.
more patients a nurse has to care for at once, the more likely
there will be patient deaths or complications after surgery. Each
additional patient per nurse over 4 is associated with a 7% increase
in mortality. The difference between 4 to 6 and 4 to 8 patients
per nurse correlates with 14% and 31% increases in mortality,
respectively. (Oct. 2002)
is a 'strong and consistent' link between nurse staffing
levels and patient outcomes. Improved RN-to-patient
staffing reduces rates of hospital-acquired infections,
pneumonia, shock, cardiac arrest, gastrointestinal bleeding, and
other adverse outcomes. (May 2002)
staffing levels affect patient outcomes and safety."
Insufficient monitoring of patients -- caused by poor working
conditions and the assignment of too few RNs -- increases the
likelihood of patient deaths and injuries. Avoidable medical errors
kill up to 98,000 people in U.S. hospitals every year.(Keeping
Patients Safe, Nov. 2003)
Poor hospital nurse staffing is associated with higher rates of
urinary tract infections, post-operative infections, pneumonia,
pressure ulcers and increased lengths of stay. Better nurse staffing
is linked to improved patient outcomes. (March 2004)
on Massachusetts Hospitals Shows Patients are Suffering Under Current
Staffing Conditions in Hospitals
is not uncommon for nurses in Massachusetts hospitals to be assigned
six, seven, eight or even 12 patients at a time. According to the
research, these practices place patients at a dramatically increased
risk of injury or death.
of past patients in Massachusetts’ hospitals found that one
in four patients (an estimated 235,000 patients a year) reported
their safety was compromised during their hospital stay due to their
nurse having too many other patients to care for (Opinion Dynamics
Corp., March 2005)
of Massachusetts physicians conducted in April 2005 by Opinion Dynamics
Corp. found that:
82% of doctors agree that the quality of care in Massachusetts
hospitals is suffering due to understaffing of RNs.
78% say RN staffing levels in hospitals are too low.
61% are aware of medical errors that occurred because of RNs having
to care for too many patients at once.
There is Not a Shortage of Nurses — There is a Shortage
of Nurses Willing to Work in Hospitals
out with high patient loads, RNs are leaving the bedside or working
less. Massachusetts has the fourth most RNs per capita in the country,
but less than 50% are working at the bedside and nearly 60% of bedside
nurses are working only part-time. Both nationally and in Massachusetts
we have seen a consistent increase in the number of licensed RNs
and a simultaneous decrease in the number of those RNs working in
best way to retain skilled nurses in our hospitals is to establish
minimum safe staffing standards. Enrollments in nursing schools
continue to skyrocket -- many schools have long waiting lists. A
survey of registered nurses in Massachusetts completed by Opinion
Dynamics Corp. in July 2005 found that 65% of those nurses not working
in hospitals would be likely to return to hospital nursing if the
Patient Safety Act were passed. This represents a pool of more than
Increasing RN Staffing is Cost Effective
Care Reduces Costs
minimum RN staffing levels eliminate unnecessary complications,
reduce preventable medical errors, and curb extended hospital stays,
thereby saving precious health care dollars.
2006: An "unequivocal business case"
can be made for increasing the level of registered nurse staffing
in hospitals. This move could pay for itself in fewer patient deaths,
shorter hospital stays, and decreased rates of costly medical complications.
2005: Minimum RN staffing levels are more cost-effective
than common hospital practices such as clot-busting medications
for heart attack and stroke, and cancer screenings.
Staffing Decreases RN Turnover and Saves Money
staffing levels are burning out nurses and increasing turnover rates,
costing hospitals millions to recruit and train new nurses. The cost of replacing just one medical/surgical RN
is $46,000; the cost of replacing a critical care RN is more than
$65,000. Hospitals with higher turnover rates have a 36% higher
cost per discharge. Higher turnover leads to lower profitability.
In other words, lower patient loads will keep nurses at
the bedside and save money.
you can do!
Go to www.capwiz.com/massnurses
and send an email to your state representative and state senator
asking them to take action on this bill as soon as possible!
Call your legislators and tell them you want An Act Relative to
Patient Safety to ensure the quality of patient care in Massachusetts!
House and Senate Switchboard – 617.722.2000
more information on the bill or to find out how you can help, call
Political and Grassroots Organizer Riley Ohlson at 781.830.5740