Whistleblowers Need Protection
I have always been an advocate in the Iowa Senate for affordable, quality health care and for policies that protect Iowa patients. That's why I was surprised by a confusing letter to the editor that included misinformation about a health care issue I am working on.
Monitoring and improving the quality of Iowa health care is something we should all be interested in. I'm proud that the hospitals and clinics located in my senate district are among the nation's leaders when it comes to continuous efforts to improve patient care.
One serious health care concern here in Iowa is nurse staffing shortages. Iowa, 50th in the nation when it comes to average pay for nurses, has -- not surprisingly -- trouble finding enough nurses. These shortages increase the likelihood that experienced nurses will leave nursing due to burnout and not being able to provide quality care to their patients. Shortage also may lead administrators to reduce patient care by increasing the number of patients under a single nurse's care.
This is why I led an effort to create a legislative study committee this year to study the nurse staffing issue. The committee met and heard expert testimony on the key issues.
One of the things I learned is that this summer, the Iowa Department of Public Health held public meetings across Iowa to gather information on these issues. More than two-thirds of the nurses who provided comments withheld their names for fear of possible retribution from their employers. I trust nurses to give accurate information about their patients and the quality of care they are receiving. When nurses don't feel they can share their professional views, it raises a red flag for me and for many other people interested in health care.
Thousands of nurses work in my Senate District. I admire the work they do on behalf of Iowans. I take seriously the concerns Iowa nurses have shared with me. That's why I will continue to work with the Iowa Nurses Association and the professionals represented by the Services Employees International Union to support whistleblower protections so frontline nurses and other health care workers are free to speak out when they feel patient care is endangered.