Nurses continue to push for safe staffing in DC
Friday, March 23, 2018
For the third straight year, nurses are planning to meet on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The Nurses Take DC event will be held April 26 and hopes to again raise public awareness regarding safe nurse-patient ratios, meeting with legislators to discuss nurse staffing and to support pending legislation.
Over 20 years ago, more than 35,000 nurses marched on Washington hoping to bring attention to the poor working conditions nurses were experiencing in exchange for bigger profits. Led by pioneer change agent, Laura Gaspais Vonfrolio, RN, Ph.D., nurses came from all over the county and for that one day, united and ignited.
Although difficult to measure, the impact could be felt as nurses felt empowered and inspired when they returned to their workplaces. Fast forward to today and the inspiration continues, as do the continued concerns for working conditions and patient safety.
The event has been the culmination and labor of love from members who met through the popular Facebook group, Show Me Your Stethoscope. Founded by Janie Harvey Garner in response to the "doctor stethoscope" comment on ABC's "The View," the group has grown to more than 650,000 members and continues to be the growing grass roots movement for a nation of nurses.
In discussions with nurses from around the country, it became clear that staffing was a prevalent issue that needed to be discussed and solved. In 2016, Show Me Your Stethoscope joined efforts with another grass roots group, and the Nurses Take DC movement was born.
"Nurses are the largest workforce in healthcare and yet have the smallest influence on healthcare policy," says Garner. "Raising public awareness of the dangerous staffing levels can only help us. The public must join us in this fight because nurses are threatened and fired for advocacy. The most trusted profession on the planet is punished for advocating for the patients under our care. Also, our nursing programs failed to teach us how to advocate for ourselves."
The event will begin April 25 with a networking event, followed by a Legislative Educational Seminar. The seminar hopes to educate those in attendance on how to advocate for patient safety, including successful lobbying of legislators. The attendees are encouraged to make appointments with their legislators to discuss the issues and get support for current legislature supporting nurse-patient ratios.
"My goal of the event is that nurses feel confident and motivated to connect with their legislators," organizer Cathy Stokes says, "as well as to empower the nurses and help them realize that they bring value to the profession and bedside. And that we as a united profession, we can make the positive differences that are needed."
The rally intends to focus attention on the need for national nurse-to-patient ratios, much like those enacted in California in 2004. With a looming nursing shortage — estimates report almost 2 million nurses will be needed by 2020 — the need to have safeguards in place is imperative. Currently, there are no regulations for safe staffing nationally, and nurses can have any amount of patients under their care as seen fit by their facility.
The evidence is robust that when nurses are overworked or overburdened with too many patients, the patients suffer and burnout among staff ensues, thus contributing to the shortage of nurses. The cycle is endless and needs to be stopped.
"Arguably the biggest problem in achieving 'enough nurses' is not that we lack evidence of the difference they make or that we have insufficient information to determine the numbers needed, or the conditions associated with attracting and retaining nurses," Author Jane Ball remarked. "And it's not that we have failed to share the evidence.
"It's a systemwide failure to fully comprehend the unique value of the skilled care provided by RNs. If the contribution of RNs is not valued, the RN workforce is not planned with diligence, nursing shortages arise, and staffing levels are lower than they need to be to provide care safely and effectively."
Organizer Doris Carroll added: "I wonder — what will be our watershed moment for nurses to take action and demand a rewrite of safe staffing levels? I believe the time is now. In fact, it's critical."
With more than 18 speakers, including pioneer nurse march organizer Vonfrolio, as well as legislative authors and supports, the event is set to continue to break records and carry the torch that was lit all those years ago. However, it can only work if nurses continue to come together and unite — for the sake of their profession and the safety of the patients.
For more information or if you would like to support the movement, please visit NursesTakeDC.com.
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