Letter to the editor: Nurse staffing ratios don’t work and endanger lives

Editor:

Having been a nurse in California when they instituted nurse staffing ratios, I have a good perspective on what would happen if Washington passed HB 1868. Just like in California, the continuing shortage of nurses and the inflexibility of the ratios would delay and restrict care here. Simply put, units will close, and people will die.

We would have to cap admissions and keep beds unfilled because we are short of nurses needed to meet ratios. Some patients would sit in the Emergency Department lobby for 12-24 hours waiting to be seen. That happens in California. The hospital I was working in had a patient die in the lobby.

If our delivery or neonatal units were full, a mom in labor or baby would be sent to another hospital — the worst nightmare for a parent. We had to do that all the time in California. There is nothing patient-friendly about that practice.

Our current staffing is set by our internal staffing committee and is adaptable to acuity and time of day. For example, the staffing committee feels we need fewer nurses at night. But the ratios in this bill are round the clock, with no flexibility.

The lesson from California is clear: Ratios don’t work, and they endanger lives.

Jennifer Culbertson, MSN, RNC, CENP
Chief Nursing Officer
Swedish Edmonds

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