Do you believe hospital patients are either more or less safe than in the past?

Nurses involved in a labor dispute with Twin Cities hospitals say their main concern is patient safety. Today’s Question: Do you believe hospital patients are either more or less safe than in the past?

  • Christopher Nelson

    As long as profit is the primary motivator for hospitals, patients, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff are in danger. I worry anytime my health or the health of my family is seen through the lens of profitability. The same goes for healthcare insurance.

  • zombie

    Safe from what?

    Safe from drunk Doctors? Safe from attacking Ninjas? Safe from nurses who care more for a contract then why they became a nurse in the first place?

    I think the question is WAY too vague.

  • Patrick J Nolan III

    Staffing levels impact patient care – if there is less skilled nursing staff working with sick patients the outcomes can only be effected – patient experience will not be as good on one end of spectrum and increased deaths may occur on other end. I expect hospital administrators have calculated the “risks” – I do not want to see MN health become like other states – poor, average, bad – we expect more than that.

  • Amy Jackson

    My family has known for years if someone goes in to the hospital overnight we stay with them all night long. We do this because there are not enough nurses anymore to properly care for patients.

    Insurance companies require hospitals check out patients faster than ever, which means the patients who are in the hospital are sicker than before. So now we have sicker patients and less care givers. Not a good equation for the patients or the nurses.

  • Lola

    The turnout for the contract vote reflects the concerns nurses have regarding the increasing pressure they are under in the hospitals. Their legal and professional responsibilities are to provide safe and effective care for their patients. Nurses are the last line of defense to make sure their sick patients get what they need regardless of staffing levels, mandated processes, or access to resources. Nurses also tend to stand up more for their patients than for themselves. 9,000 nurses showing up from all over the Twin Cities to make their voices heard should send a clear signal that all is not well.

  • Karen

    To respond to the earlier post from “zombie” (“safe from what?”). I am an actively working bedside R.N. What you, as a patient, need to be safe from is a nurse who has too many OTHER patients with too many needs. If I don’t have the time to talk with you thoroughly and evaluate your situation, to read and respond to your physical and mental changes, to properly prepare and administer your medications, to tend to your needs, your recovery can be seriously jeopardized, or worse, you can die. Studies prove that safe staffing ratios – limiting the number of patients any one nurse can be expected to serve – saves lives. I know of patients: – who have had to wait for EMERGENCY surgery, who, in labor, have had to wait hours in a holding area rather than being properly watched in the birthing center, who have not received adequate, necessary discharge education, who have fallen and been injured, who have had unsafe treatment delays, – all because management refuses to staff enough nurses. Managers actually get bonuses for coming under budget. This means that the more nurses they can force to stay home, the more money they make. As long as somebody doesn’t die – they are rewarded. (and frankly, even when there is a “negative” event, they find a way to shift the blame). The union seeks to act as the balancing agent in this system, where patient care is managed like car manufacturing. Profits are most certainly being generated, we just want to see the “non-profit” hospitals directing their profits to the bedside so that patients aren’t subjected to these conditions.

  • Considering it’s no fun to live in a nation that disparages lifestyles (imagine being a fat inactive smoker), I suspect fewer patients care to go on living. I also suspect some with disparaged lifestyles do not even seek treatment because they do not feel welcome.

  • Comments texted to MPR:

    Relative to the miracles hospitals can now perform, the danger to which hospitals routinely expose patients is disturbing. Work overload? -Phil, St. Paul

    Less safe – nurses aren’t given time to actually NURSE patients. I’ve seen this recently. They have 5 minutes per hour with patients then tracking requirements. -anonymous

  • Lisa

    I’m not sure that “patient safety” is on the line – but patient comfort is. I don’t think you can call getting your pain medication a hour later than necessary because the nurse was busy with someone else a “safety” issue – but I would call it a pain and suffering issue. If you’ve had to watch a loved one in pain, and there’s no nurse to be found – you feel the health care system is not working. My husband once pulled the “code blue” line in his mother’s room to get some attention – nothing else worked!

  • Mike R

    I am not a health professional, I do not work in the field. Therefore, my personal opinion about the safety of patients is largely irrelevant. I have absolutely no special training that gives me the right to pontificate on the matter.

    However (in contrast to some), I do believe we must listen and take heed of the warnings from the professionals in the field. If nurses say patient safety is at risk, they are the experts and I believe them. They deserve our attention on this matter.

  • Ginger

    The issue of safety in hospitals extends far beyond the ratio of nurses to the people they serve. Our health care system is broken and instead of fundamentally changing the system, prescriptive processes have been instituted to address cosmetic issues impacting care.

    Increasing the number of nurses won’t improve the experience unless we can also reinvent diagnostic processes, infection prevention, so-called “patient-centered-care,” and the generalist/ specialist business model.

  • Jayne Piehl

    As a cancer patient, I can attest first hand how important it is for any patient—and their family members—to advocate for themselves throughout their hospital stay and health care appointments. Health care providers are over-worked and despite efforts to instill safeguards in their systems, mistakes happen. I have spoken up, or my family members have spoken up, countless times to avoid errors or to simply voice a preference in care! I know safety is evaluated in many ways, but being a self-advocate is a necessity in this day and age, regardless of how safety is managed by the institution or the insurance company.

  • Jim

    I don’t think I can answer this question in any detail because I haven’t had hospital care or been with some one who is having hospital care very recently. In the past I have noticed that nurses seem to not have enough time to cover the work they are doing in a timely way when it is busy time of the day. Also, I think that there is a lot of shifting around of the nursing staft and not enough communication, which results in the nurses not being as familiar with their patients as they should be to give the best care. I think that with the current emphasis on profit in the medical system, the problem of nurses not giving the best care is probably increasing.

  • mike wisneski

    Having over six surgeries in different hospitals around mpls metro,I feel I have a good opinion on patient safety.I don,t feel real safe having watched three shifts of nurses/doctors come around and going about there business,The old school nurses are the best,clean and do a great job,You others who want to leave and will tell you,and some who do next to nothing,Heart wards are the best all around,Nurses do most of the work,Doctors are seldom seen,Alot patients want to leave ,but can,t because of paper work,You should have camera,s in the room,And your surgery should be taped and you should get a copy,This is a must.There,s so much to say about safety,Ask questions/demand ansewers; thanks mike

  • bill

    It depends on the hospital. In the Twin Cities, pretty safe with some hospitals more safe than others. In other states, an emphatic no. My mother had heart surgery in Il. The nurses were working 3days at 12 hours each. The stations were understaffed. Somewhere along the line she developed sepsis. Struggling for 18 months she eventually died. Its was miserable for her and us. I think that was due to inattention of the staff due to being fatigued.

    I know its balancing costs and care, but what a terrible choice. Less can can be deadly.

  • Bonnie

    Unsafe for patients, and unsafe for nurses. We forget nurses are legally liable when bad things happen. My niece had a RN friend who recently was sued for an event clearly due to unsafe staffing, yet she was held accountable. She commited suicide over it.

  • Zachary Doering

    Hospitals are less safe. Every one of them.

    Mistakes are up, infections are up, people are injured because of what happens to them in a hospital.

    Hospital Management has avoided accountability for the conditions in hospitals.

    The financial model is broken, and nurses and doctors, while being talented and caring people, work in a model that more and more puts patients at risk.

  • Darryl Carter

    Whether on Wall Street or in medicine, we live in an era of management mentality gone mad. The gusher in the Gulf is exceeded only by the flow of greenbacks into the pockets of those in the administrative suites.

    Any fool can make an assembly line run faster and then lay claim to being an efficiency expert, while product quality drops along with the workers.

    This management malady is more malignant when affilcting the world of medicine, where the dropping workers are not making widgets, but trying to heal human beings.

    We need a radically redesigned model of medical care, putting an end to “drive-by surgery” and empowering MD’s and RN’s.

  • Max Hailperin

    I have spent a lot of time over the past quarter century as a visiting family member in many different hospitals, ranging from local community hospitals to world-famous tertiary hospitals.

    Most of the signs I see point to three conclusions: (1) patient safety is generally a higher priority now than it has been in decades, (2) most of the work to achieve this has been done by nurses, and (3) the nurses are therefore quite right to fight vigorously to preserve and extend their accomplishments in patient safety, lest we see dangerous backsliding.

    I have seen nurses come running at the first sign a patient is getting out of bed, so as to forestall a falling injury. I have seen nurses take the time to go through elaborate infection-control procedures. I have seen nurses carefully reconcile medication lists, verify patient identity, and even check back with physicians on the accuracy of orders that seemed out of the ordinary. All of these steps to reduce common dangers of hospitalization have been much more pervasive in recent years than they were ten or twenty years ago.

    These steps all take nursing time, just as other equally fundamental aspects of nursing do. Although the nurses I have observed have not been uniform, when taken as a whole, they truly have demonstrated an extraordinary level of professionalism. If the members of this profession tell me something about the conditions under which they can continue to work effecitvely to ensure my loved one’s safety, I am prepared to honor their professional judgement.

  • Lerry

    You question does an interesting job of dancing around an issue. The question should be “Do you believe hospital patients will be more or less safe under the new contract as it is currently written?”

    The answer is less safe. Under the contract being offered, there will be fewer nurses doing a larger variety of tasks. For example a nurse with 10 years of pediatric experience (and only pediatric experience) could find themselves working in the ER, or being sent to a different hospital for the shift where the procedures and protocols are different. By reducing staffing levels our hospitals will be less safe.

  • Thomas Jackson

    I have been a patient in hospitals and am also married to a Registered Nurse who takes very seriously her commitment to safety issues as do her co-workers, I know from personal experience of being a patient that when Nurses are expected to carry 4-5 patients that safety is compromised, a Registered Nurse is someone who takes the time to check your meds, call for verification of same, and gather important information from you the patient to give to the physician. With all the Medicare/Insurance company changes the documentation of all they do takes time, statistics and articles out there have indicated that a Registered Nurse carrying more than 4 patients in her shift leads to more adverse side effects, and mortality rates in Hospitals increase. I have heard the terms “failure to rescue” used by Nurses in our family and friendship groups, and most contribute these incidences to the fact that Registered Nurses are carrying a patient load that is not safe, our Nurses care about patient safety and so should you as a consumer and so should the hospitals. Support your Nurses, you may never know when you might need them!!

  • Dean J. Seal

    Nurses are scientists, chaplains, moms and professional healers in a world that doesn’t pay them enough attention, or enough money. Now the system is trying to cut their health insurance, and cut staffing. This is a crime.

  • nancy Zhao

    Every hospital is different. One would have to compare each hospital to it’s own past. even if hospitals are more safe now than in the past, that has no bearing on what happens if you remove a portion of your workforce and expect fewer people to perform the same work. It’s the same if you have a widget factory, if you want to pay fewer people to work you are going to have fewer or defective widgets. We have already cut all the corners we can.

  • nancy Zhao

    It’s all about PROFIT MOTIVE. As long as the people in power are more concerned about their shareholders than the patients, then nothing will change. I’m not optimistic since it seems to be The American Way. The system is profit driven and those with the wealth have the power to maintain the status quo.

  • Jane

    As I ask myself this question I get tears in my eyes.

    Patients are not as safe as we used to be.

    Partly as a result of lack of continuity. Then failure to perform such as updating charts.

    My husband died as a result of negligence and I was also hurt same hospital years later.

    I could have sued but didn’t…wish I did.

  • Lawrence Landherr

    Hospitals today lack good quality control measures. Delivery of medical care is often extremely complex. Staff have to deal with constant revisions to facility computer software programs. Nurses should not be expected to know constantly changing computer programs. Lets’ deliver health care and not computer programmers.

  • brian carlson

    Two comments: The last time I was in a hospital in Duluth I was there 11 days. The first day there I went to the bathroom but didn’t use it because there was urine on the floor and feces on the wall. I had told the nurse then it should be cleaned. The day I left I asked the doctor to go into that bathroom…it still had not be cleaned up…He made a call and it was done in 5 minutes…yet all week no one tended to it. One night there I had a nurse who changed needles in my arm every 2 hours and also gave me shots. When I went to get up in the morning all the needles and bloody cottons were laying on top of my covers…11 to be exact! I do agree there are fewer ‘professional’ nurses and staff in hospitals today. There still are some good one of which I am very thankful…but less of them..

    The second comment. I used to belong to a union and unions for the most part are very good for health care and wages, benefits, etc. However, the one most disappointing aspect of unions is that they do nothing to clean out the trash in the ranks. They push to keep on those who come drunk or drugged, sleep on the job, create issues, are worthless in every way. One day unions (and that means those who are members) will finally recognize that THEY have to weed out the good for nothings in order for unions to have the best possible standing in our society. Right now they are ‘enablers” to every person (no matter what race, color, gender, creed, etc) who uses the system to get away with as much as possible and work as little as they can because they are “protected” without ANY penalty for their worthlessness.

  • I would ask the reading public who you believe and the Hospital Boards why they think thousands of nurses across the hospital systems are all standing strong on issues of concern for their Nursing Practice and Patients safety. There is a fundamental question that must be addressed– the purpose of the contract for years has consistently created and embedded, Professional standards for nurses to provide safe care and with a degree of continuity of care because to know you is to recognize changes in your condition faster! Important especially in the acute care arena. The need for flexibility is a productivity approach and a desire of employers who want nurses to work many areas within one shift—not areas of expertise, and not with any concern for continutiy, not a action to provide a caring and holistic environment for very sick people whcih we have spent years negotiating into a contract, but a model to enrich the competitive coffers of the corporate structures now called Healthcare systems.

  • Taffy Miller

    The Medical Industry isn’t running a public service, here. As usual, the suits start cutting with the people who actually do the work, not with those who get rich by working the system. When the baby is sick, or it’s 4AM and you’re in pain, whom are you going to call? Suits don’t work at 4AM, and they never have to touch those icky sick babies. Safer? From what?

  • connie

    Patients are less safe than in the past. I had been a nurse one the same floor of one of the contract negotiation hospitals until 7 months ago. The patients have become increasingly more complex, the ancillary staff the hospitals love to tell the public are there for us continue to get cut, and the amount of patients we are required to take continues to increase(up to 7 patients per nurse on a busy day shift). This is a reason I chose to leave floor nursing and since I left 7 nurses on my floor have followed. I could no longer in good conscious take care of patients in a substandard manner or continue to put my licence in jeopardy. This is why I voted to strike.

  • Carolyn Kaehr

    Having graduated from the I.U. School of Nursing in 1961, I’ve seen many changes in health care and they aren’t good.

    When insurance companies started dictating the number of days patients could be hospitalized (DRG’s, Diagnostic Related Categories), I left bedside nursing and worked in public health. Before DRG’s, we could get our patients well and teach them and their families how to ensure continued healing after they arrived home. Most never had to be re-hospitalized because of infections, lack of knowledge about their care, etc.

    I don’t blame today’s nurses for getting out of direct care as soon as possible. Nobody is winning today except management, who are more interested in their own paychecks and resume’s than the welfare of patients and the nurses who try to care for them.

    Nurses today do what physicians used to do and don’t get credit for it. The only reason I’m now glad that I’m a retired RN is my ability to help my own family and friends with health issues and to remain as healthy as possible so I don’t need to be hospitalized. Today, “Health care is hazardous to one’s health.”

  • Tracy

    This problem is not only an issue in hospitals, but also in long term care facilities. One nurse can be responsible for 20-40 residents; passing medication, doing treatments, and charting. God Forbid if there’s an “emergency”… Bottom line, all management cares about is profits, and the nurses, other ancillary staff, patients and residents are the ones that suffer the consequences. 🙁

  • ICU Nurse

    It is sad, but healthcare is a business where the bottom line is just as or more important than caring for people.  I believe that doctors and nurses truly do care about people and that is why we do this work.  But think about who is actually responsible for making the hospital money.  Insurance will only pay an X amount for a procedure.  How much money is saved rests on the shoulders of the pt care staff.  We have to try to use less, get people out quickly, make sure that they get the right meds, and make sure they don’t a hospital acquired infection or get readmitted for the same issue.  The only reason the hospital “cares” is because they will make more money if procedures are followed.

    Doctors perform 100K surgeries (which comes out of all of our pockets) on already sick people with chronic problems that they either chose to ignore or didn’t have the resources to control (alcohol, diabetes, obesity).  These are the types of patients  I see.  And we’re supposed to work our buns off to not only recover them, but do it as cheaply as possible, in the least amount of time, with no mistakes, and make sure everyone has a good experience, so that management gets their bonuses?  Really?

    I am a relatively new nurse and I think technology is great when designed well (on my iPad right now), and I also think that new nurses are just as good or better than most older ones.    

  • ICU Nurse

    BTW, some may ask, why are nurses griping so much about an issue that plagues many other industries/jobs/professions?

    These issues are not unique to nursing, but the reason why it’s different and we want everyone to know is a) literally peoples lives are at stake b) individual nurses are accountable because we hold professional licenses and c) healthcare cost is crippling this country like nothing else.