Pacific Hospital Long Beach is a 184-bed, full-service teaching hospital that offers a range of services to patients and their families. The professionals are issuing comment on a new bill that aims to increase the number of nurses per patient in New York’s 185 acute acre hospitals. Lawmakers believe that these efforts would lower patient death rates and make treatment more effective.
Those who support the bill feel that requiring one nurse for every two intensive-care patients and every four patients in the medical-surgical unit would improve the care offered at that medical facility. They expect fewer deaths, complaints and readmissions, without major financial damage to the hospitals that must enact these new ratios. They argue that in many busy hospitals without such regulations, it is common for nurses to become stretched thin, especially during overnight hours. This strain lessens the quality of patient care and leaves nurses feeling overwhelmed.
Jared Birnbaum is a registered nurse who takes care of overnight shifts in the emergency room at Westchester Medical Center, a 650-bed regional trauma center. He notes that after 3a.m., there are usually only five or six nurses available to cover both the adult and pediatric emergency rooms. In the event that a serious trauma cause comes in, three nurses may be delegated to that case. An emergency may cause these nurses to neglect their other patients for several hours. It also means that those who come in with a serious condition during this time may have to wait 20 minutes until someone can speak with them.
Birnbaum reflects on the situation stating, “What am I to do other than do the best of my ability to work with what we have? It’s a lot of prioritization. We pretty much get patient and family complaints all the time just for length of stay and how long it takes to do certain tasks.”
Westchester Medical Center spokesman David Bilig argues that he believes that the facility, which is a Level One trauma center, can mobilize staff in order to cover the needs of those in the hospital, thus providing patient-centered care.
The team at Pacific Hospital Long Beach states, “These kinds of conditions are problematic and require attention. Even if it turns out that the patients are satisfied with their stay at the hospital, it is clear that there is some concern among staff members. This alone is enough to warrant a closer look at hospital policies and protocol. In order for them to be able to give out the best care possible, it is important that nurses at a hospital feel satisfied. Burnout that occurs when nurses feel stretched too thin can quickly lead to sloppy mistakes and other dangerous situations.”
The New York State Nurses Association states that members at 57 unionized hospitals last year filed 19,292 separate complaints about staffing assignments that they viewed as unsafe. The group is currently backing the bill to establish required staffing ratios as it moves through state legislature.
The professionals at Pacific Hospital Long Beach comment, “Any time there are measures put in place to improve the quality of care at a hospital, it is a positive thing. Lawmakers and hospital administrators should carefully analyze this bill and consider whether it is the best way to care for patients. It is important that everyone involved in regulating and directing the health care industry remains focused on the patients above all else. Whether it is through this bill or other similar measures, patient care should be of the utmost importance.”
Should the bill pass, New York would become the second state to set mandatory nursing ratios, following California’s implementation of similar legislation in 2004. Though the bill has many supporters, hospitals in New York are taking a stance against the proposal, explaining that the new ratio regulations would cost them and state nursing homes approximately $3B annually. They also feel that the new rules would infringe on a hospital’s ability to shift staff members’ schedules as needed.
Jill Furillo, president of the Nursing Association, explains that improved ratios for bedside nurses is necessary, as these professionals are most effectively able to identify infections and recognize medication mistakes, therefore helping to shorten hospital stays.
In 2002, a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association looked at hospitals with high patient-to-nurse ratios. The findings examined 10,000 nurses and 230,000 patients and found that with each additional patient assigned to a nurse, the likelihood of dying within 30 days after admission rose seven percent. The research explains that high patient-to-nurse ratios increased death rates among surgical patients and also made nurses more likely to experience burnout.
However, those who oppose the bill feel strongly that it would damage the financial structure of the hospitals. Brian Conway, who is a spokesman for the Greater New York Hospital Association, explains, “The bill would transfer patient care decisions from individual hospitals to Albany, cost financially struggling hospitals across the state $2 billion to implement and force hospitals to lay off other staff. The bill would undermine its own goals by draining resources for support staff, including nursing aides and licensed practical nurses.”
The team at Pacific Hospital states, “It is important that supporters and opponents of this bill come together in order to find a way to make hospitals as effective as they can be when it comes to administering treatment, listening to patient needs, and diagnosing small problems before they become major medical concerns. While both groups have valid points, ultimately patient care should remain the focus.” The team at Pacific Hospital Long Beach encourages compromise on the part of both parties.
Pacific Hospital Long Beach is a fully accredited teaching hospital that uses state-of-the-art equipment to promote healing. The facility also prides itself on its warm and welcoming environment, thus allowing the hospital to take on a more homelike atmosphere. Those who stay at the hospital receive attention from a team of well-trained and compassionate doctors, nurses and clinical staff members. Patient care is always a priority, which has helped to make the hospital the preferred medical facility among locals. The hospital offers a number of services to those who visit including behavioral health services, emergency services, a family health clinic, an intensive care unit, laboratory services, cardiopulmonary care, infection control and a partial hospitalization program.