[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to email@example.com.]
To the Editor:
I am a nurse and I am voting YES on Question 1.
My thoughts on this issue are shaped by 30 years of practice in acute care hospitals. I directly cared for patients in intensive care units, step-down units and medical-surgical units. I served in nursing and hospital leadership positions where I oversaw clinical care units and quality of care within both community and academic medical centers. I directly experienced caring for more patients than I could safely manage. I also directly experienced managing nurses who have been impacted by being assigned too many patients, and the trepidation they experienced that is rarely seen by others.
It is understandable that unless you practiced as a RN, it is difficult to fully understand the ethical-legal choices with which RNs are confronted when trying to balance care, assessments, and teaching to all your patients.
It is a risk to both the patients and the nurse when the nurse is assigned too many patients. Nurses directly care for patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Nurses are the primary health profession that has oversight to ensure patients and their families are provided the best care for recovery and to sustain health after their hospital stay. Nurses have an ethical-legal responsibility to fulfill this role in society. If nursing is unable to provide safe care because of understaffing, they cannot sit by idle and let this happen. Nursing has an ethical obligation to alert society. For several decades and currently, nurses have expressed concerns about understaffing that impairs their ability to provide adequate, safe care. The concerns of front line, staff nurses in this regard has long been disregarded by hospital executives and other administrators.
It is also important to understand there are dynamics that make understaffing even more egregious today. The patients are more sick, the medications more potent, and technology more sophisticated within the hospital, with the patient moving in and out of the hospital more quickly than ever. Ballot 1 is asking the people of Massachusetts to help support the nurse to be able to provide the best care to you and your loved ones when needed. Ballot 1 is asking for nurses to be allowed to control their practice by having enough nurses to face the complex process of care for patients and families.
Health care management is complex with many factors that influence costs in this $28 billion industry in this state. Fear is being generated about unintended consequences if the ballot is passed—but what are the unintended consequences occurring now resulting from understaffing. We, the health care professionals, the Commonwealth, and its people are in control of the decisions that are made and together we will meet the challenges of staffing hospitals safely. A YES vote on question 1 will provide the nurses with an equal voice to ensure appropriate, safe care as we continue to strive to make health care in Massachusetts the best for all.
Please join me in voting YES on question 1 along with many of my colleagues. We ask the public to give us a chance to provide the best care that you and your loved ones deserve and are paying for.
Mary Antonelli, RN, PhD, MPH