Battles Over Nurse Staffing Ratios Spread Across Nation

Source: Mischa Gaus, Labor Notes Magazine, No. 347, February 2008

After a patient quietly died in registered nurse Danielle Magaña’s hospital hallway, she decided she’d had enough. Although an autopsy later said the woman had died of natural causes, Magaña said the incident was waiting to happen at her chronically short-staffed San Antonio hospital.

Intensive-care nurses like her were assigned up to five patients per shift, including two in the hallways who weren’t hooked into monitoring equipment that warns when a patient’s vital signs slip away. Magaña still questions whether the woman could have been rescued if the nurses on her floor weren’t carrying such heavy patient loads.

Hospital management, she said, “do not give us the right to say, you need to call in another nurse.”

So Magaña became one of the 40,000 Texas registered nurses the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) estimates have left the hospital bedside, largely they argue because hospitals cut staff in the 1990s and quickened the pace of nursing work to intolerable levels. In a national study released in September, 42 percent of newly licensed RNs said they would like to leave bedside nursing.

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