by Howard Lestrud
ECM Political editor
“Every patient deserves a standard of care,” Sandie Anderson, a registered nurse at Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming, said at a press conference Wednesday morning (Feb. 13) at the State Capitol.
She and Susan Kreitz, an RN colleague at Fairview Lakes, were speaking in support of a Standards of Care Act, legislation to be introduced tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 14) by Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, and by Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights.
The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) called the press conference to explain why the legislation will increase safety of patients and will also reduce health care costs.
Linda Hamilton, president of the Nurses Association, said patients are needlessly at risk because too few nurses are on duty when the patients need them.
The MNA says nurses “are legally and ethically bound to provide safe patient care and advocate for patient interests.” The MNA says that despite registered nurses regularly reporting situations in which the safety of a patient is compromised, hospitals refuse to address the problems with a permanent fix.
In a handout, the MNA said patient care is growing more complex while the period of time in which RNs have to treat them is compressed. The MNA argues that patients are suffering the consequences in the form of near misses, preventable errors, avoidable complications, increased lengths of stay, readmissions and even injury and death.
The MNA, with this legislation carried by Hayden and Atkins, is seeking consistent standards of nursing care it claims will eliminate unnecessary complications, reduce preventable medical errors and curb extended hospital stays, thus reducing risks to patients and saving health care dollars.
Hayden said proper staffing lowers health care costs. The legislation is meant to monitor and enforce standards, he said. He predicts that discussion on this legislation will be contentious but open.
“This legislation puts the decision at the bedside not the Capitol,” Hayden said. “Other states that have implemented and or studied staffing standards report that the probability of deaths drops by double digits,” he said
Atkins said it is time to have a conversation on these concerns and try to improve patient care and decrease health care costs.
The proposed legislation, advocates said, will increase the safety of patients by:
• Requiring patient-to-nurse standards that could be further adjusted based on the patient’s acuity and nursing intensity.
• Establishing committees to address patient care units where a nationally accepted standard does not exist.
• Ensuring that mandatory overtime does not become the solution for meeting the staffing standards set forth.
• Providing protection for nurses who report employers that are not in compliance with the law.
A Standard of Care is needed, Anderson said, making it “incumbent upon hospitals to ensure enough nurses are on duty according to patient needs per unit and per shift.” The legislation asks hospitals, when developing assignments, to abide by nationally accepted, evidence-based standards established by professional specialty organizations.
The legislation also would call for enforcement of consequences for facilities that fail to meet these standards of care.
A 35-year veteran of the nursing profession, Kreitz said a law is needed. “Every hospital needs to be held accountable for providing an environment that allows nurses proper time to assess and assure the safety of those in our care,” Kreitz said.
Carol Dienert, director of nursing practices education for MNA, is optimistic that standards of care can be adopted. “Patients are sicker, are in the hospital shorter times and require more acute attention,” she said.
Howard Lestrud can be reached at [email protected]