New report details widespread understaffing in Minnesota hospitals, putting patient care at risk  


Contact: Sam Fettig
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Lauren Nielsen
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Report comes as Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, a bill to retain and staff nurses to protect patient care, is taken up in conference committee with Health Omnibus bill   

PRESS CONFERENCE: Click here to watch video of the press conference releasing the new report

(St. Paul) – May 4, 2022 – Nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) today shared the results of an annual report on Concern for Safe Staffing (CFSS) forms which paint a bleak picture of the crisis of understaffing by hospital executives in Minnesota healthcare facilities. The report documents continued growth in CFSS forms filed in the past year, up to a total of 8,437 in 2022. In nearly 90 percent of cases, hospital managers and executives failed to adequately respond to the concerns for patient safety raised by the nurses. The report comes as the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, a bill to retain and staff nurses to protect patient care, is taken up in conference committee with the Health and Human Services omnibus bill.

“As registered nurses, we are expected to deliver high quality, safe, ethical, and therapeutic care despite the poor conditions executives created in our hospitals,” said Doreen McIntyre, RN, Childrens Minnesota and MNA Second Vice President. “Hospital executives continue to foster conditions where nurses face inadequate staffing levels and insufficient resources to provide the quality care patients deserve. We need real, concrete solutions to the staffing crisis in Minnesota.”

Minnesota nurses submit CFSS forms when they are concerned that short staffing may negatively impact patient care. Nurses document when patients are potentially harmed, or when, in the nurse’s professional opinion, patients did not receive the safe and quality care they required due to under staffing. In 2022, nurses reported 6,279 cases where patient care or treatments were delayed due to short staffing by hospital executives. This can include delays in administering medication, completing a patient assessment, or answering patient call lights. The report follows data released by the Minnesota Department of Health last year which found a 33 percent increase in adverse events inside of hospitals, meaning more falls, bed sores, or even deaths in the place where patients are supposed to be getting better.

“Working in labor and delivery, I know the impact and importance of having enough feet on the ground,” said Sandie Anderson, RN, St. John’s Hospital and MNA Treasurer. “The inability to answer call lights could look like a first-time mother in pain and scared, waiting for a nurse to bring them something that could help alleviate the pain or to talk them through what’s happening. Unsafe staffing happens everywhere, from rural hospitals to large metro area hospitals.”

Last week, new data from the Minnesota Board of Nursing detailed that there are more than 130,000 Registered Nurses in Minnesota, the highest ever in state history and an increase of 8,000 since last year, showing that there is no shortage of nurses in Minnesota. However, nurses are leaving the bedside due to unsafe and unsustainable conditions in our hospitals. Last year alone, more than 2,400 MNA nurses left bedside hospital jobs in Minnesota, citing unsafe staffing as the number one issue driving nurses away. But more than 80 percent of nurses also indicated a willingness to return to the bedside if conditions improve, meaning more than 2,000 nurses are ready to come back – if the Minnesota Legislature takes action this year.

“The Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act will give nurses a voice in the staffing process, to improve staffing levels and retain nurses; ultimately, to protect patient care,” said Carrie Mortrud, RN, MNA Nurse Staffing Specialist. “Understaffing is a problem across our state. What this bill will do for every patient at every hospital is provide transparency, so patients understand what level of care they can expect. Nurses’ working conditions are our patients’ care conditions.”

The CFSS forms submitted by nurses in 2022 detail how hospital executives doubled down on their own policy of understaffing by giving new nurses patient assignments before they completed orientation; assigning patients to the charge nurse, who is meant to remain flexible to provide assistance to other nurses on a shift; or assigning untrained or underqualified staff. As a last resort against understaffing by hospital executives, units were closed 942 times in 2022 due to insufficient staff to safely operate them.

To address the chronic issue of short staffing in our hospitals, Minnesota nurses championed the bipartisan Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, a comprehensive approach to nurse staffing and retention that would establish committees of direct care workers and management at Minnesota hospitals to discuss what works best for staffing for their patients on a hospital-by-hospital, unit-by-unit level. Rather than patients waiting for hours or being denied care, the compromise bill incentivizes hospitals to staff appropriately so nurses have the time and resources necessary to provide quality patient care and ensure that there are staffed beds for waiting patients to go to. Under the bill, Minnesota hospitals would receive a public grade reflecting data on patient care and whether they follow the staffing plans agreed to by the committees.The bill also includes additional nurse recruitment and retention solutions including workplace violence prevention and loan forgiveness programs. The bill is now being taken up in conference committee as the House and Senate work to reconcile their Health Omnibus bills.

The 2022 Concern for Safe Staffing summary report and reports from previous years can be found here.