Registered nurses joined with District of Columbia Council members and community supporters in a press conference today to announce the introduction of the Patient Protection Act to dramatically improve care in DC hospitals to protect patients. peaking
to a room packed with some 200 DC RNs, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson called the bill “common sense, today’s version of the 8-hour day.” It is intended, he said, to address “the short change of healthcare due to the bottom line, ensure an adequate number of nurses on duty and eliminate (nurse) burnout.”
Opening the press conference, Washington Hospital Center RN Rajini Raj (above) explained the bill would establish mandatory minimum nurse-to-patient ratios by hospital unit, augmented by additional staffing based on individual patient needs. It is “modeled on a successful California law that has dramatically improved patient safety, brought 130,000 additional nurses back to the bedside, and has helped keep experienced nurses taking care of patients.” The Patient Protection Act, Mendelson emphasized, “provides a minimum number of nurses on duty by specific unit at all times” “All the time I hear from nurses working at hospitals across the District that they are forced to run between too many patients,” said Margaret Shanks, RN at Children’s National Medical Center and president of the District of Columbia Nurses Association/National Nurses United.
“In the neonatal intensive care unit (at Children’s) the patient load has been increased on many occasions by 50%,” Shanks said. “It means that our youngest, most vulnerable babies sometimes just don’t get the care they need. This can lead to unnecessary suffering for the babies and readmissions that drive up costs. I became a nurse to save lives and comfort the sick. And when those babies and their parents need a nurse, we should be able to be there.” Bonnie Linen-Carroll, an operating room RN at Washington Hospital Center, said “I have seen first-hand patients brought into the operating room unprepared for what they’re about to face because nurses in other units were short-staffed.” She also described short staffing in labor and delivery and the emergency room. “When RNs are accessible and available, that’s ratios,” said Hedy Dumpel, RN, NNU’s National Director of Nursing Practice and Patient Advocacy. “Patient complications come down and re-admission rates are low.” Also speaking at the press conference in support of the bill were 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.