For patients in a hospital setting, unfettered nursing care is the key to a successful outcome. However, there are many forces present today that constrain nurses from doing their job properly. This puts patients at risk. National Nurses Week is a great opportunity to make patients aware of the importance of nursing care and the challenges that nurses face in modern healthcare. Make no mistake, skilled nursing care is under assault in the U.S. and patients will die as a result.
In this well-written editorial, a New Jersey legislator gives voice to the challenges that nurses face: http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/13/05/06/it-s-time-for-hospital-owners-to-listen-to-the-voices-of-nurses/. As N.J. State Sen. Sweeney points out, there is a “crucial link between safe and effective patient care and the rights of nurses to speak up for themselves and their patients.” Nurses function as the eyes and the ears of the doctors, who are often absent from the hospital, disengaged from direct patient care, and fractitionated in the care that they do provide. Nurses also function as the key care providers, administering therapies as ordered by the physicians or primary nursing treatments. They also function as patient advocates who are responsible for pushing physicians to give proper orders when the treatments are not working or the patient’s condition worsens.
A strong, empowered and well-staffed nursing staff translates directly into better patient outcomes. For instance, the rate of infection increases significantly when hospitals understaff. For patients, corner cutting with nurses is flat-out dangerous.
Hospital negligence often results from inadequate nurse staffing and deskilling of nursing care by substituting less qualified aides or LPNs to do the work of skilled RNs. Hospitals will try to save a buck by overworking and underpaying nurses. These cost-cutting measures are unnecessary. You need only look at the huge profits that for-profit hospitals are reaping and the building sprees that so-called “non-profit” hospitals have been engaged in to see that the money is there. Nurses are also being systematically sidelined by automated systems like electronic medical records and remote monitoring systems (“telemedicine”).
Nothing replaces a qualified nurse with a strong voice and professional autonomy. For National Nurses Week, take a stand against the threat to patient safety by the assault on nursing.