Let me start out by disclosing the following: I am not a nurse. But neither are 99% of the voters who are being asked to decide on ballot question 1, which would significantly alter the state’s healthcare landscape and threaten access to care for many.
Question 1 seeks to put a cap on the number of patients a registered nurse could have at a given time, at all times, in all units of all hospitals in the state. On the surface, this question sounds like an easy ‘yes’; who wouldn’t want more nurses? That is the key thing the supporters of ballot Question 1 want us to think. But they want us to stop thinking at that point.
Those of us who oppose Question 1 want voters to think beyond that: about the implications of this ballot question if it passes. We need to ask more questions:
- Why am I being asked to vote on this?
- Is a ballot referendum establishing a government mandate really the best way to address nurse staffing and patient care?
- Who is supporting each side of the question?
- What are healthcare professionals saying about this?
- Should all hospitals really be required to staff the same, regardless of local considerations for hospital resources, patient needs and individual nurse education and training?
- How many nurses would hospitals need to hire to meet the mandate’s requirements?
- Are all of these additional nurses really needed in all hospitals?
- Are these nurses readily available to hire if the ballot question passes?
- Would these additional nurses have the necessary training and experience required to provide optimal patient care on such short notice?
- What happens if hospitals can’t hire the required nurses?
- How much is this going to cost?
- How will we pay for the increased costs?
- Will other staff, programs or services be cut to pay for the additional nurses?
- Is there evidence that mandating nurse staffing levels has worked elsewhere?
- How will this impact my local hospital?
- How will this impact my health insurance costs?
The supporters of this ballot question are trying to frame it as an “us vs. them,” “labor vs. hospital executives” argument, but if you take the time to talk with nurses, doctors, and others who are voting NO on Question 1, you will find the reality is far more complex. Everyone wants adequate nurse staffing. Everyone wants excellent patient care and outcomes. But this ballot question — mandated nurse staffing ratios — is NOT the right way to get there. Ask the detailed questions, and ask for the data to back up the answers. Nine times out of ten, the supporters of this ballot come up short on facts but high on hyperbole.
I have learned more about Question 1 and the unintended consequences it poses at www.protectpatientsafety.com and encourage others to do the same.
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