Nurses say they want minimum staffing levels to prevent mistakes

Mar 5, 2013

Democrats in the Michigan Legislature and a nurses’ union are calling for a state law that would require hospitals to maintain staff levels without resorting to mandatory overtime.

Sixteen states currently have rules regarding staff-to-patient ratios.

Right now, California is the only state with a law that sets minimum staffing levels in hospitals.

State Representative Jon Switalski (D-Warren) is about to introduce legislation to set staffing requirements in emergency rooms and other hospital wards.

“Nurse staffing can literally be a life-or-death issue and affects families from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula,” said Switalski.

Scott Nesbit is a registered nurse from Muskegon. He says he and other nurses have experienced mistakes or a “very near miss” caused by short-staffing.

“I don’t think people realize that when your nurse is handling far too many patients, or working a double-shift or been mandated to stay over, it’s probably because the hospital wants it that way,” said Nesbit.

Similar legislation has failed in previous sessions of the Legislature.

The Michigan Health & Hospitals Association opposes the idea.

The group says a law that sets staffing requirements would rob administrators of the flexibility they need to meet different situations. The association says the bigger problem is a shortage of trained nurses.