The Voices of Iowa nurses Need to be Heard
Are there enough nurses in Iowa hospitals? Are patients like you and I at risk because there just aren't enough nurses to care for us?
I recently heard expert testimony on this issue from all sides. I'm the co-chair of a state legislative committee investigating this troubling issue.
Recently, the Iowa Department of Public Health held public meetings statewide on this issue. One nurse explained how a lower nurse-to-patient ratio would benefit Iowans receiving medical care:
"I wouldn't feel as rushed. I could spend more time with my patients which would improve care and patient satisfaction. There would be less chance of mistakes."
One proposed solution is to establish mandatory nurse-to-patient staffing ratios similar to those adopted by California. Rather than depending on each hospital to balance the risks of understaffing against each hospital's bottom line, the Legislature would establish a floor below which no Iowa hospital could fall.
There are various approaches to protect Iowans from being injured by hospital staff shortages. Mandatory staffing ratios might be part of the answer. Our investigation, however, has raised a new question: Are nurses afraid to tell what they know about this problem?
Of the 278 nurses who provided written comments at this summer's public hearings, only 87 were willing to give their names and tell where they worked. Several said they feared they would be fired if their employers knew they had provided this information.
That so many nurses were afraid to speaking publicly is very troubling. As we address the issue of hospital staffing shortfalls, we must make sure Iowa nurses are not afraid to speak freely about the best ways to improve bedside healthcare.
I am working to provide Iowa health care workers with "whistle blower protections" so they can speak freely without fear of retaliation by employers. This is a bi-partisan, common sense measure that will lead to better health care for every Iowan. Let's make sure nurses voice are heard when it comes to providing Iowans with high quality health care.