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Survey: Nurses care for too many patients

May 9, 2018
Photo/Courtesy
Photo/Courtesy
UMass Memorial-Marlborough Hospital, where nursing assistants and others recently formed their own union chapter. A majority of nurses statewide have said they're asked to take care of too many patients at once.

More Massachusetts nurses are saying they have to care for too many patients at once, now up to 61 percent of those surveyed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

Slightly more — 65 percent — bedside nurses said they don't have time to provide patients with the care and attention they need. Another increase in what nurses described as a major challenge was on-the-job injuries: 25 percent cited that problem, compared to only 17 percent the year before.

A similar jump took place in how many nurses called workplace violence or abuse a major challenge. That rate spiked from 19 percent to 26 percent. Those responses came amid a continued push from nursing advocacy groups including the Massachusetts Nurses Association and Massachusetts Medical Society for better security protections.

Harrington Hospital in Southbridge installed metal detectors in its emergency department last year after a nurse was attacked by a patient, and UMass Memorial Medical Center followed with its two Worcester campuses by the end of the year.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, a labor group that represents more than 23,000 nurses statewide, issued its annual State of Patient Care survey findings this week to correspond with National Nurses Week. It said the majority of those surveyed last month by an independent research firm for the association are not association members.

Having enough time to spend on patients was the top concern voiced by nurses in the survey. In each of the past three years, the rate of nurses saying they lack the time to properly comfort and assist patients and their families has risen. This year, it was 90 percent. Another 77 percent said medical errors, such as giving a wrong medication or dosage, could result from being stretched too thin. That was up from 57 percent three years prior.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association has pushed a bill to set limits on the number of patients a nurse could care for during a shift. The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association's Massachusetts chapter have opposed the bill, arguing it would take away a staff's ability to decide patient care and be too costly.

The Coalition to Protect Patient Safety, which has also opposed that bill, criticized the Massachusetts Nurses Association survey, saying it over-sampled union nurses and didn't disclose margins of error and other details.

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