Michigan nurses link patient deaths to understaffing in new survey: 6 things to know

Over 20 percent of Michigan nurses reported knowledge of a patient dying as a consequence of understaffing, according to a survey covered by MLive.

The survey was conducted in early March by the Anderson Robbins Research firm out of Boston at the behest of the Michigan Nurses Association. The union is pushing for legislation that would institute minimum nurse-to-patient ratios.

Here are six things to know about understaffing and the Michigan nurses survey:

1. The survey was administered to 401 registered nurses across the state of Michigan, only 48 of whom were members of the Michigan Nurses Association. The association was not revealed as the sponsor of the research until after interviews were complete.

2. Eighty-six percent of nurses surveyed reported that care quality is suffering because of the high patient burden placed on hospital nursing staff, and 58 percent reported not having enough time to care for patients. Also, 85 percent reported awareness of instances when nurses lacked time to properly comfort and assist patients and families.

3. In addition to the 22 percent of nurses who reported knowing of a patient death linked to poor nurse-to-patient ratios, 57 percent reported infections or other complications, 49 percent reported injury or harm to a patient and 63 percent reported medication errors resulting from nurses having to care for too many patients at once.

4. In MLive, John Armelagos, RN, president of the MNA, said, "The findings are consistent with years of scientific research that show a clear link between RN understaffing and poor patient outcomes...hospital safety has become a public health crisis that must be addressed."

5. The MNA supports the Safe Patient Care Act, which was initially introduced in 2013 to bipartisan support in the Michigan Legislature but has since stalled. In addition to minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, the legislation would implement a limit on mandatory nurse overtime.

6. The Michigan Health and Hospital Association opposes the legislation, citing nurse training as the more crucial element in care quality. MHHA spokesperson Laura Wotruba told MLive, "We think individual hospitals should be able to determine their staffing needs based on the patients they are serving and other factors." In regards to the potential link between staffing levels and patient harm, Ms. Wotruba said, "There probably need to be case-by-case research into why those situations happen."

More articles on patient safety: 
FDA announces bold warning requirement for opioid medication labels 
athenahealth adds patient safety to employee training in 2016  
8 Michigan hospitals earn EAM patient safety awards 

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