To the editor:
Over 12,000 nurses who were part of the National Nurses March joined together in our nation’s capital on Thursday, May 12, to protest unsafe issues affecting healthcare. The three main concerns affecting nurses and healthcare providers are unsafe staffing ratios, violence in the workplace and the proposal to unfairly cap nursing wages.
Staffing ratios have a direct and correlating direct effect on the quality of care provided, yet only the state of California has state mandated nurse to patient ratios depending on specialty. Nurses have pleaded for years to have national state mandated nurse to patient ratios, but since it would directly affect the healthcare facilities profit margin no other state has implemented the ratios. Healthcare facilities argue that the ratios would cause an increased nursing shortage and would greatly increase administrative costs, so they are allowed to compromise the quality of healthcare in the name of profit.
As a result, nurses and healthcare workers are forced to work short staffed and extended shifts, often against their will, to compensate for the lack of adequate staffing ratios. They are set up to fail in a broken system and expected to function without error or delay.
When a medical error does occur due to the unsafe working conditions, they are now being charged with a felony charge such as in the case of RaDonda Vaught, the nurse from Vanderbilt Hospital. There is an obvious and inherent disparity in consequences for medical errors for the nursing profession, which is made up of mostly women and minorities, compared to the male dominated physician field. A prime example is the case of Ohio Dr. William Husel who was acquitted of fourteen counts of killing patient with a fentanyl overdose, while the nurses who acted under his medical orders are now being investigated for felony murder charges.
Healthcare violence is a very real and prevalent increasing concern, yet healthcare facilities have done nothing to protect their nurses and healthcare workers. Healthcare employees are routinely subjected to threats, harassment, physical assault, sexual assault, and intimidation. Workplace violence in healthcare is grossly under reported due to a lack of faith in the healthcare system, lack of policy to deal with violence while supporting staff and as a direct fear of retaliation from employers.
Many healthcare workers who are victims of workplace violence are often further victimized by their employers and often accused of somehow causing the violent attack instead of acknowledging they as employers failed to provide a safe working environment. Healthcare facilities must be mandated on a national level to develop a universal strategy to combat violence. Healthcare violence has become a silent epidemic causing nursing burnout. As a direct result our nation is facing a critical nursing shortage.
Instead of addressing the real issues in healthcare and making an action plan to enhance healthcare, politicians are now being pressured by healthcare administrators to place an unfair wage cap on travel nursing salaries. Top healthcare executives were never on the frontline of Covid-19, yet they continued to collect their millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses while they repress healthcare workers who sacrifice time away from families in an unfamiliar area to provide direct patient care. The decision to limit salaries are again based on personal greed and fear that they will have decreased profit margin, with little regard to how these salaries will negatively impact an already crippled system and further exacerbate the nursing shortage.
Now is the time that our political leaders need to start advocating for healthcare workers so that our current healthcare staffing crisis does not spiral out of control. This past week nurses and healthcare workers from all over our nation joined together to advocate for these critical issues. and yet the media coverage was minimal to nonexistent and there was no political support for the efforts made by these amazing individuals.
Nurses have always been the advocates for patients; we now need our leaders to stand up and start advocating for us. Giving nurses pizza parties when they bring real issues to the table is not the solution to fix our broken healthcare system. We went from being called heroes last year to being treated like zeros this year. Our nation needs to make these healthcare concerns a priority and implement an immediate and direct action plan otherwise you may find yourself without the life saving care you may someday require.