Statement from Minnesota Nurses Association on Emergency Federal Medical Teams


Contact: Sam Fettig
(o) 651-414-2863
(c) 612-741-0662

Lauren Nielsen
(o) 651-414-2862
(c) 651-376-9709

(St. Paul) – November 17, 2021 – State officials today announced that two emergency medical teams from the United States Department of Defense will travel here to provide staffing support to Minnesota hospitals. The following is a statement from Mary C. Turner, RN, Minnesota Nurses Association President and a COVID ICU nurse.

“There is no shortage of Minnesota nurses who want to work at the bedside and care for patients. There is a shortage of nurses willing to work under the unsafe and unsustainable conditions hospitals have created. For years, hospitals have been understaffing nurses, leaving fewer of us to care for more patients. These decisions have driven nurses away from the bedside and created the current retention crisis.

“This issue requires more than a band-aid. It is past time for hospitals to uphold staffing levels which will allow nurses to do their jobs with safety, professionalism, and respect for patient care. If hospitals improve working conditions, starting with adequate staff levels, they will find no shortage of nurses eager to care for patients.”

COVID-19 and the Hospital Understaffing Crisis
Despite what hospitals claim, the pandemic did not create the nurse retention crisis. Rather, years of cost-cutting and understaffing left hospitals poorly equipped to handle the pandemic. These policies have put an excessive burden on nurses, driving them away from the bedside.

When hospitals understaff nurses, both patient care and working conditions suffer. Patients can end up waiting longer for care when nurses are stretched thin between more and more patients. The toll of being overworked, understaffed, and unsupported contributes to rising exhaustion and moral distress among nurses.

During the first year of the pandemic, several Minnesota hospitals closed down units and laid off staff. Now, while COVID-19 cases surge, hospitals continue to schedule nurses at minimal levels, including on a “low need” basis which allows them to send nurses home without advance notice. In addition to the wasted time and loss of pay for nurses, this leaves the hospitals further understaffed when patient levels increase during a shift.

These choices might be good for hospital revenues, but they are bad for patients and nurses. The COVID-19 pandemic did not create this crisis, it has only exposed the tragic consequences of the cost-cutting policies Minnesota hospitals have pursued for years.