Not all Massachusetts nurses want a ‘yes’ vote on Question 1. The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) is promoting ballot Question 1, which would set limits on the number of patients assigned to a nurse at one time. First, this bill only pertains to hospitals and it’s important to note that hospitals staff about half of all nurses and the MNA only represents about 25% of nurses statewide.
The idea of limiting patient load is good in theory, but it’s more complicated. Supporters say that hospital nurses are often over-worked and limiting patient load could make hospitals safer. It is not surprising hospital administrators oppose the ballot question, because it would be expensive. The cost of health care in the US is a much bigger issue and our whole health care system is a mess, but that’s another story.
Regarding Question 1, I’ll be voting no on Question one for a very different reason, simply because there are not enough nurses to fill the jobs we have now. This country has had a nursing shortage dating back to the 1930’s and I don’t see an end to the shortage anytime soon. If this bill passes, hospitals will drain nurses from other much needed and already short staffed places like nursing homes, group homes, rehab facilities, doctor’s offices and home care.
Hospitals already have the most skilled nurses and they should have the flexibility to move staff where it is most needed, without government imposed ratios. Creating nursing assignments is complex and dynamic and needs flexibility. Hospitals will do just fine without this bill. However, if the bill passes, it will be devastating and life threatening to long-term care facilities for the elderly, sick and disabled – our most vulnerable citizens – who often can’t speak for themselves.
I have been a nurse for 36 years and have worked in several different settings including hospitals, nursing homes and home care. It is the nursing homes and home care who are desperate for nurses and this bill would make a bad situation worse. For example, I know of children with complex medical needs who are approved for home nursing hours, but there are simply no nurses to fill those hours. If there were plenty of nurses I would have no objection to Question 1, however at this time when I weigh the pros and cons, I think a yes vote would hurt more people than it would help.
Please Vote No on Question One.