Nurses use Internet campaign to build support for workload cap

The Massachusetts Nurses Association is turning to Facebook today and launching an Internet advertising campaign in September to build support for a proposed November 2014 ballot question that would cap nurses' workload in acute care hospitals, The Boston Globe reports.  

Supporters must gather 70,000 signatures from registered voters by this November, according to the Globe, and this move is likely to ignite debate between the union and hospitals, each side claiming they want what is best for patients. 

According to the newspaper, nurses have been fighting for staffing legislation since 1995. Unions think workload limits are a huge issue, especially now that hospitals are under growing pressure to control coats.

The nurses' campaign calls for:

  • One nurse for every four patients in medical/surgical units, where most patient care takes place
  • One nurse for one to three patients in emergency departments, depending on the severity of the patient conditions
  • One nurse for one to two patients in critical care units, based on the needs of those patients

But the Massachusetts Hospital Association (MHA) contends that administrators need the flexibility to decrease the number of patients assigned to new nursing graduates and give more patients to more experienced nurses, MHA President Lynn Nicholas told the Globe.

"This issue has had significant deliberation for many years and it's been rejected year after year and not just in Massachusetts,'' she said. "It's a terrible idea.''

The union contends more than 40 studies in medical journals highlight the negative effects of overburdening nurses, which is linked to increased costs and mortality.

So far, only California has enacted nurses' patient limits. Similar legislation has been filed in 12 other states. The article explains that the Massachusetts ballot question would ask for stricter limits, but make exceptions for certain patient conditions.

In June, FierceHealthcare previously reported that nurses are most at risk to become overwhelmed and depleted, suffering from "compassion fatigue." As a result, hospitals are trying creative methods, such as offering knitting classes, creative writing and dance to help nurses relax, re-energize and prevent or overcome burnout, The Washington Post reported. Experts say preventing professional burnout also is a critical component of quality patient care.

To learn more:
- read the Boston Globe article
- see the MassNurses release on Facebook

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