Nursing Group Executive, Journalist Offer Opinions on Nursing Shortages
"A major battle is unfolding" in California over the state's "historic law" that will establish minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, California Nurses Association Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro writes in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. She points out that at the request of Gov. Gray Davis (D), state lawmakers "pushed back" the effective date of the law to Jan. 1, 2002. In addition, California's "powerful" hospital industry has asked the state to set "weak ratios that would further exacerbate the current crisis," and HMO giant Kaiser Permanente hopes to delay implementation by up to five years -- moves that DeMoro predicts "would be disastrous." She warns that California has suffered an "erosion of care standards and a hemorrhaging of nurses away from the hospital bedside," but adds, "There is a solution: Establish strong ratios, and the nurses will come back." According to DeMoro, a "turnaround to restore our patient safety net and bring RNs back to the hospital bedside can be achieved here -- if strong ratios are adopted by the state without crippling delays" (DeMoro, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16).
Meanwhile, Suzanne Gordon, a health care journalist and author of "Life Support: Three Nurses on the Front Lines," writes in a Los Angeles Times/San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece that although the United States faces a "serious" nursing shortage -- with nurses "fed up with mounting workloads, mandatory overtime and pay levels" -- lawmakers' proposals to address the problem "will do little to remedy the underlying causes" of the nursing shortage. According to Gordon, lawmakers "define" the nursing shortage as a "problem that can be solved through education and public relations." She points out that without "substantive changes in working conditions," only "luring more people into the profession will aggravate, not alleviate, the situation and encourage the 'management by churn' that has reduced customer service quality" in other industries. Lawmakers must offer legislation that includes a ban on mandatory overtime and "steps in favor of safe staffing ratios" to "make nursing a stable, rewarding, long-term career," Gordon writes. She concludes, "The rule should be that neither hospitals nor their industry association get any money for training, education or recruitment unless that money is tied to changes in the conditions that created the nursing shortage and that continue to threaten vulnerable patients every day" (Gordon, Los Angeles Times/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.