On November 6th, the nation is asking its voters to decide whether or not nurses should be given a maximum number of patients. As of now, hospital supervisors have no limitations to how many patients they can assign to a nurse, with the exception of more critical Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients. Currently, Nantucket Cottage Hospital (NCH) officials argue no for this ballot because “it is just wrong for Nantucket” and the diversity of our small community compared to others, given the way our hospital is run, would be ruined if this law were to be passed. Another debate on this side of the argument is that the flexibility of Nantucket nurses’ ability to make the best decisions about their patient’s care would be eliminated. In addition, the passing of Ballot Question 1 would result in annual costs for the hospital to increase by 2.6 million dollars.

On the other hand, those who are voting yes on Question 1 claim that although costs will go up, they will go down eventually. This argument is based on the observations made when California passed safe patient limits and the costs increased. However, over time, patient care improved and readmissions into the hospital occurred much less often, which leads to the speculation that costs essentially decreased. 49 out of 50 states in America do not have any limits for how many patients a nurse is required to care for. These nurses argue that because of this, many patients don’t receive the health care they deserve, for their providers are overloaded with work.

According to National Nurses United, “when it comes to caring for sick and injured people, however, a shift beyond one’s capacity is not funny. It’s dangerous.” According to an analysis done by medical journal Medical Care, the probability of a patient surviving cardiac arrest reduces by 5% for every patient added under a nurse’s care. Similarly, pediatric patients convalescing from basic surgical procedures are 48% more likely to be readmitted into the hospital. They believe that if they were granted a set number of patients, they would be able to offer the best care possible in an organized fashion.

The opposing arguers worry, if nurses have already reached their maximum patient limit, will those patients be turned away? This question is typically answered by a working nurse with the suggestion of calling in another nurse to safely treat the patients who are unable to be helped effectively by the available healthcare workers. Jessica Douglas; School Nurse, Nursing Teacher, and Registered Nurse at NCH argues “yes” for Ballot Question 1. When asked if she believes nurses should be given a maximum number of patients, she responded with, “Yes. When I’m spread too thin, I make mistakes.” Alternatively, Jason Graziadei, Public Information Officer at NCH, believes nurses should not be given a maximum number of patients and claims, “…in general we all want good nurse staffing and, quite frankly, good staffing for all our departments, but we do not need the government telling us how to do that. Nantucket Cottage Hospital wants to maintain the autonomy and flexibility to make these decisions on our own. That’s why we have joined every other hospital in Massachusetts in opposing Ballot Question 1.”

 

By Reese Burns

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