Nurses at two hospitals in New York City are demanding better pay and better working conditions. A key component of negotiations is addressing patient nurse ratios which currently have some nurses caring for too many patients at one time. "This a crisis, not a shortage, but a crisis," said Dr. Ernest Grant, who has been been a nurse for 44 years. He is also the immediate past president of the American Nurses Association.
"Yes, we've had shortages. But I've never seen nothing to this extent, where people are not wanting to work in the acute care setting," Grant continued.
A recent survey of North Carolina Nurses Association members found 80% of those who responded have a current shortage at their facility, 37% described the shortage as severe.
"You have a lot of nurses who are retiring. The baby boomers are reaching the retirement age," he continued.
As more nurses retire, not enough younger nurses are entering the profession. "We graduate about 250,000 new nurses a year, but that does not meet the need when you find out you're a half million short, to begin with," Dr. Grant explained.
With more nurses retiring and leaving the bedside it's made the workload heavier for the current nurses. "Some nurses are being asked to care for 10 to 12 patients, which is asking too much. It's impossible to try to provide the care that is needed and ensure that everything is done, for the patient, and that creates more anxiety for the nurse," he described.
That's why the American Nurses Association is advocating for safe staffing, which includes nurse-led committees to establish staffing plans based on the number of patients and their needs.
They're also pushing for mandated legislation or regulations to address the nurse to patient ratio.
16 states have laws on the books to currently address nurse staffing at hospitals. "The ultimate thing is that you want to be able to ensure that you as the consumer are getting the best nursing care possible," continued Dr. Grant.