Video: Michigan nurses call for safe limits to patient assignments as RNs report a rise in preventable deaths

Lansing, MI – The Michigan Nurses Association, the largest organization for registered nurses and healthcare professionals in the state, launched its ad campaign today on streaming platforms in support of the bipartisan Safe Patient Care Act. It’s estimated that the ads will generate nearly 2 million impressions over the course of the campaign.

“We know that this legislation will save lives,” said Paige Rubleski, RN, one of the nurses featured in the ad campaign. “For years, healthcare executives and their lobbyists have been trying to kill this legislation so that hospital profits can continue to rise. With new leaders in office, we hope that the story will end differently this time around.”

The Safe Patient Care Act is a bipartisan legislative plan that sets safe limits on the number of patients nurses can be assigned, curbs excessive mandatory nurse overtime, and requires hospitals to disclose their RN-to-patient ratios.  Nurses often say maximizing profit – rather than providing safe patient care – motivates healthcare executives’ decisions about how many patients to assign to a nurse. There is no law that limits the number of patients that can be assigned.

In a January poll, 42% of nurses reported knowing of a patient death due to unsafe RN staffing levels. This is nearly double from 2016. Ninety-three percent of nurses in the January poll support a safe staffing law.

An investigative report in the New York Times on Ascension Healthcare, called “How a Sprawling Hospital Chain Ignited Its Own Staffing Crisis,” documented many of the concerns around intentional short staffing. The report also highlighted lobbying efforts in Michigan by the corporation to block the Safe Patient Care Act, which would have regulated its activities. MLive’s reporting “During the darkest days of COVID, some Michigan hospitals made 100s of millions” showcased how multiple Michigan healthcare systems made large profits during the pandemic.

“Too many people are dying unnecessarily because we’re being forced to take care of an unsafe number of patients by out-of-touch healthcare executives who put profits first,” said James Walker, RN, who also appears in the ads. “Our loved ones and our communities deserve better. It is urgent for our communities to hear directly from nurses about what is really happening in hospitals.”

“This is a matter of life and death,” said Carolyn Clemons, another RN in the ad. “Michigan families can’t keep waiting for hospital executives to do the right thing on their own. Bedside nurses like me need legislators to act so we can take care of our patients and keep them safe in hospitals. The crisis will continue to spiral downward unless something is done.”

A survey of over 9,000 Michigan nurses reveals the scope of the issues facing nurses and patients. The University of Michigan study published in a peer-reviewed journal indicates that:

  • When mandatory overtime is frequently used, nurses are 72% more likely to have left the profession within the past two years.
  • Nearly 40% of Michigan nurses say they plan to leave their job within the next year.
  • 83% of currently practicing nurses say adequate staffing is their main concern.
  • 84% of currently practicing nurses report emotional exhaustion.

More than one-third of RNs with active Michigan licenses are choosing to not work as nurses, according to government data. Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) reported that there are 154,758 RNs with active Michigan licenses as of January. Yet only 102,480 people are employed as RNs in the state of Michigan, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the first video of the ad campaign, nurses share their experiences struggling with these challenges.

“I’m not a superhero. The work I do as a nurse is important and it can even mean life or death. I want to provide the high standard of care that all of my patients expect and deserve. But I’m only human,” nurses say during the ad. “Caring for too many patients at once and being forced to work 16 hours makes it impossible to provide the best care.”

The ad can be seen by clicking here.

The bills in the package are sponsored in the state House and Senate:

Limit the number of patients a nurse can be assigned
Rep. Stephanie Young (D-Detroit), House Bill 4550
Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), Senate Bill 334

Curb forced RN overtime
Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City), House Bill 4551
Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Senate Bill 335

Require hospitals to release their actual RN-to-patient ratios
Rep. Carrie Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor), House Bill 4552
Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), Senate Bill 336

The bills are awaiting a committee hearing in both chambers.

The Michigan Nurses Association is the largest and most effective union for registered nurses and healthcare professionals in Michigan. MNA is an affiliate of National Nurses United and the AFL-CIO. 

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Contact: Amelia Dornbush, 517-896-7478

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