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They lined the hallways, crowded the stairwells and eventually packed the Hearing Room of the District of Columbia Council Monday. Room 412 may never have seen such a spirited gathering – 200 RNs – and some additional supporters, with a press section full up.   Quality healthcare reaches into all our lives.  

The way to get there for Washington DC patients, explained Rajini Raj, RN, is to pass and implement the Patient Protection Act, a new measure introduced by DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson with the support of 10 of 13 DC Council members.

The bill is already endorsed by National Nurses United Catholics United, DC Jobs with Justice, the Government Accountability Project, Housing Works, the Washington Teachers’ Union and many others.  The outpouring of support for this bill is pervasive and powerful.

DC Patient Protection Act
Rajini Raj, RN calls for nurse-to-patient ratios at DC press conference

"We’re here today to talk about what is nothing less than a patient care crisis in DC’s hospitals,” said Raj, a  cardiac unit nurse at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, “and about a badly needed legislative solution.”

The proposed law benefits all patients in the District with mandatory minimum nurse-to-patient ratios by hospital unit, whistle-blower protections and an end to mandatory overtime.  Nurses are burned out and that puts patient care in jeopardy.  “This is a problem at every single hospital in the city,” said Raj.

DC Patient Protection Act
DC nurses pack auditorium Monday to show support for Patient Protection Act

A survey of the DCNA nurses recently carried out showed that 57 percent of nurses say staffing is always or often inadequate; 64 percent say they have less time to care for their patients; and 60 percent say changes in their workload have led to worse outcomes for patients.
The DC legislation is modeled after the California ratio law pioneered by the California Nurses Association and underpinned by multiple nationally-recognized scientific studies. For example, a University of Pennsylvania 2010 study comparing California’s surgical staffing to that in Pennsylvania and New Jersey found that if those two states matched California's ratios, New Jersey hospitals would have 14 percent fewer patient deaths, Pennsylvania 11 percent fewer.  
Bonnie Linen-Carroll, RN, an OR nurse at Washington Hospital Center, emphasized, “I have dedicated my life to providing nursing care to people who are at their most vulnerable,” she said.  Linen-Carroll set her sites on intransigent management.  “[T]he hospital corporations refuse to ensure that there are enough registered nurses working at the bedside.”
DC Patient Protection Act
DC RNs celebrate introduction of bill outside John A. Wilson building in Washington

At several intervals in the one-hour presentation, calls for “patient care above profit” were loud and clear.

Others at the press conference included Margaret Shanks, RN and president of the District of Columbia Nurses Association/NNU, Jos Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council (AFL-CIO), Rev. Dr. Carolyn Boyd-Clark, Plymouth Congregation United Church of Christ, Rabbi Elizabeth Richman, Jews United for Justice and Hedy Dumpel, RN, JD, and National Director of Nursing Practice and Advocacy for NNU.

Ratios in California, said Dumpel, led to greater patient safety. She added, “I would like to see the Hospital Association produce studies to back up their (opposition) claims!”

Mendelson,compared the legislation to the fight for an eight-hour day.  He vowed to give the bill a high priority.  And his colleague, Yvette Alexander, chairwoman, Health Committee, District of Columbia, concluded her remarks this way, looking out the hundreds of nurses in red smocks and tee-shirts:  “We appreciate you, we admire you, we respect what you do.”
DC Patient Protection Act

Originally posted to National Nurses Movement on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 09:52 AM PST.

Also republished by Virginia Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (16+ / 0-)

    National Nurses United, (AFL-CIO): the new RN "super-union" representing 150,000 nurses from all 50 states!

    by National Nurses Movement on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 09:52:16 AM PST

  •  Ratios in California have worked! (5+ / 0-)

    Better care, more nurses and happier nurses.  I see the results every day at work.  We really do know that more nurses saves lives.  California has 10 years of experience with it and it's been disheartening how slowly the rest of the country has come along.  Hopefully a win in DC will build momentum in other states.

    "Wouldn't you rather vote for what you want and not get it than vote for what you don't want - and get it?" Eugene Debs. "Le courage, c'est de chercher la verite et de la dire" Jean Jaures

    by Chico David RN on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 11:24:07 AM PST

  •  This needs to be done (5+ / 0-)

    everywhere, not just in DC. One of several reasons I retired was that I was just sick and tired of working understaffed and undersupported. Administrators did not care whether there were enough nurses or support staff as long as they were getting paid ridiculous salaries and the hospital was making money. They would run the hell out of nurses rather than hire more or use travel or agency nurses during peak patient seasons. I finally had enough.

    Being "pro-life" means believing that every child born has a right to food, education, and access to health care.

    by Jilly W on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 11:25:19 AM PST

  •  Things changed drastically when SoCal Kaiser (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfdunphy, Gordon20024, RN4MERCY

    nurses wrestled management into reasonable staffing ratios back in the 80's. I didn't realize the difference until I moved to NorCal in the mid-90's and smacked into the fact that the NorCal Kaiser nurses were rep'd by a different union and hadn't gotten the same standards through. And many of the non-union hospitals were just damned dangerous for patients and for staff.

    We need proper, reasonable staffing ratios throughout the country. The burnout rate is a function of bad management; entirely unacceptable and entirely avoidable. There is no excuse.

    Thanks for bringing this up.

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

    by FarWestGirl on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 11:40:07 AM PST

  •  Kudos to nurses. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gordon20024

    Talk about one of the most overworked, underpaid, ultra-important, and often very disgusting jobs. And on top of that, dealing with uncooperative or asshole patients.

    Nothing but respect. I couldn't do it.

  •  The evidence shows what RNs have known all along: (0+ / 0-)

    Safe staffing saves lives! I hope the City Council in DC remains committed to the safety of their most vulnerable residents by passing this legislation. These nurses make me so proud of our profession! RNs constitute an "around the clock" surveillance system in hospitals for early detection and prompt intervention when patient's conditions deteriorate.

    According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the odds of patient mortality increased by 7% for every additional patient in the average nurse’s workload in the hospital and that the difference from 4 to 6 and from 4 to 8 patients per nurse would be accompanied by 14% and 31% increases in mortality, respectively.

    Suppose a hospital doubles the patient load per nurse from four to eight. Then, for every three patients who unfortunately died, despite the staff’s best efforts, there would now be four deaths. Just like the family of that fourth patient, we think it’s wrong to double the workload of RNs when you know that’s going to happen.

    Conversely, when a hospital imposes a workload of eight patients per RN, we know that by refusing to accept the scientifically recommended ratio, then one out of every four patient deaths happen unnecessarily. Nurses won't back down in this advocacy fight!

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