By Cara McCarthy
If you ask a nurse the hardest thing about their job, they will probably tell you that it’s the paperwork, the late-night shifts, the unreasonable patients, or the general stress the medical field causes them.
When I was growing up, these were the main concerns my mom would always talk about when she came home from a long day at the hospital.
My mom has been a registered nurse for over 15 years. My brother and aunt are also registered nurses. All three of them have been on the front lines and have been subjected to unsafe working conditions for their entire careers, such as working long hours without a break and getting yelled at by both patients, families, and their supervisors. They have witnessed patients’ symptoms escalate, sometimes leading to death, simply because they could not give their patients the attention they needed.
My mom would always tell me how she would have a ton of patients at once with no help or support staff. She was essentially always on her own. As patients piled up, it was hard to keep track of who she needed to see next.
Question 1 would limit the number of patients who can be assigned to a nurse at one time.
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there are no set laws for how many patients can be assigned to a nurse at one time. Still, despite hospitals in Massachusetts being among the best in the country,
people have seen a decline in the overall quality of patient care that has led to higher rates of re-admittance and more occurrences of life-threatening risks, according to safepatientlimits.org – a pro-question 1 organization.
When a nurse has a lot of different patients to care for, the needs of one patient can often be
overlooked and ignored.
The Patient Safety Act would improve both patient and nurse safety in the state by putting a maximum limit on how many patients can be assigned to a nurse at once.
These nurses go through years of schooling and training. They work anywhere from 8 to 16 hour shifts with hardly any breaks – having many people’s lives in their hands at once can be overwhelming, even for the most well-trained medical professionals.
This bill protects nurses and provides them with safer working conditions by making it easier to take breaks and focus on one patient at a time, giving them the full, undivided attention they need. Studies also show that without this bill, patients are getting sicker. According to the safe patient limits website, 8 out of 10 nurses have reported patients in hospitals today are sicker than they were 10 years ago. Thirty-six percent of registered nurses also reported that patient deaths can be directly attributed to nurses having too many patients to care for at once. This represents an increase from 2017, when only 29 percent of registered nurses believed this.
Many people who are opposed say it will be a disaster if this bill gets passed because it will cost the hospitals millions of dollars and it will limit how many patients can be in the emergency room at once.
However, Massachusetts is not the <rst state to try and pass a law with patient limits for nurses. More than 10 years ago, California implemented a maximum patient limit in their hospitals and the results have been “universally positive,” according to safepatientlimits.org, both in terms of patient care and expenditures.
The people who want you to vote no on question 1 are the same people who force nurses to work in these unsafe conditions.
Eighty-six percent of nurses want you to vote yes on question 1, according to safepatientlimits.org.
If an overwhelming number of nurses, those who do the actual work, are going to vote yes – to me, the answer is clear.