Another simplistic ad for Massachusetts nurses

I don’t get out much, so on the rare occasion that I’m driving around listening to the radio I always hear something new. Three years ago I heard an ad by the Massachusetts Nursing Association (MNA) in support of legislating nurse:patient ratios. (See Selflessness or naked self-interest?) It had this simplistic and offensive tagline:

Hospitals care about profits, nurses care about patients.

Talk about boiling things down to good versus evil.

Attention in health care has shifted, quite rightly, to concerns about hospital errors and patient safety. And guess what the MNA thinks is the cure for that? That’s right, legislated nurse:patient ratios! The latest ad, which I heard today, is called Boiling Point. Here’s a little taste:

An estimated 2000 people die every year in Massachusetts because of avoidable medical errors and infections they get in the hospital. Setting limits on the number of patients a nurse is responsible for reduces suffering and saves lives. Legislators, patients in your district and across Massachusetts need your help. Please vote yes on House Bill 2059 for safe patient limits. The patient safety crisis is at the boiling point.

During the last sentence you can hear the sound of a tea kettle reaching the boiling point, just in case you didn’t get the message.

It’s clever marketing for the MNA to link nurse staffing and patient safety. They even have a page of studies to back up their assertions. And after, all, what patient wouldn’t want their nurse to be available for them in the hospital? I certainly would want a nurse to be there for me or any friends or relatives who are hospitalized.

And yet I don’t favor mandated work rules as a solution to patient safety problems. Most hospitals are working hard on patient safety. With the emergence of public reporting on quality and safety and the shift by payers away from providing reimbursement for medical errors, hospitals have all the incentive they need to improve patient safety. If they want to base their efforts on increased nurse staffing, it’s fine with me. But they should be free to pursue other approaches as well. To the extent nurse:patient ratios reduce their flexibility I’m against it.

April 8, 2008

4 thoughts on “Another simplistic ad for Massachusetts nurses”

  1. Pingback: Health Business Blog » Blog Archive » Another simplistic ad for Massachusetts nurses
  2. Great. And where will these nurses come from?

    The nursing ‘profession’ has mandated (through nursing school licensing) that there are not enough nurses to go around. Rather than increase the supply of nurses they want to increase the demand.

    More money for them, fewer nurses to care for patients

  3. Nursing supply problems are far more complex than ‘nursing school licensing’.

    There is a shortage of instructors: pay for ‘on the floor’ nursing is 20-50% better than instructor-level pay. There is a shortage of RN PhDs – it’s hard to run a nursing school without some senior researchers. There is a shortage of lab space in schools – while class rooms vary in size, labs are usually designed for a fixed number of stations, and nursing skills really do require close supervision, which limits the instructor/student ratio. There is competition for hospital resources: students in school need hospital training and hospitals need to train their new-hires, but there is a limited number of preceptors willing and competent to do the training.

    One could as well – and as wrongly – argue the primary care physician shortage is due to state medical societies limiting physician licenses.

  4. There is not really a nursing shortage. There is a shortage of nurses who are willing to put up with the working conditions. Perhaps ratios will bring back nurses to the bedside. Check out the book “Nursing Against the Odds” by Suzanne Gordon. It gives an indepth look at the Nursing Crisis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *