By Megan Gavin
MNA Education Specialist
Here in Minnesota we are rightly focused on the elections that will decide the direction of our state for decades to come. We are working hard to elect pro-union leaders who will protect the right to collectively bargain contracts. In Minnesota and across the country, healthcare has become the number one issue for voters. Costs continue to skyrocket; high deductible insurance plans drain more and more of individual families’ hard-earned money; and politicians continue to threaten protections for pre-existing conditions. The state of healthcare is not sustainable, and we need to demand change that puts the patients at the center.
While it is easy to focus on what’s happening in our own neighborhood, there is another vote that will have lasting impact on your nursing practice. Next Tuesday the voters of Massachusetts will make a decision on nurse staffing ratios. If Massachusetts voters support this ballot initiative, they will become the second state in the nation with legislation that establishes a limit to the number of patients that a nurse can care for at one time.
I have been a patient in hospitals on more occasions than I can list. For all of us who have spent more time than we care to recall in hospitals, we know it often ranks among the hardest experiences of our lives. As patients we are often overcome with pain, worry, and fear. What has single-handedly made or ruined my own hospital experiences was the nurses. Every. Single. Time. I can tell you story after story about what happened when my nurses were too busy to give me the time to explain treatments, to assess my reactions to meds, or check to see if my panic was so high I could hardly breath. Nurses need the time to provide the care they are trained to provide. Research conducted by Dr. Linda Atkins has proven a link between nurse staffing levels and patient mortality.
The hospital management in Massachusetts has waged a campaign of fear, arguing “it’s too expensive! There aren’t enough nurses! It’s not flexible enough.” They have spent millions on television and internet ads scaring the public. Healthcare is not like selling cars, or handbags, or well… anything else. As your patient, I am not a product on a conveyor belt. I need my nurses to be there to teach me what is going on, to manage my pain and to give me some sense that my humanity is still respected. Nurses can’t do this if they have too many patients at once.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has endorsed a yes vote, along with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. You have one week to call your family or friends in Massachusetts and tell them what this would mean to you as a nurse in Minnesota. Tell them that a Yes Vote on question 1 is a vote for patients and a vote for the nursing profession. For me, for you, for all your friends and family- for anyone who might ever need to go to the hospital! Vote yes!