In January, State Rep. Martin Causer and Rep. Kathy Rapp hosted a legislative hearing on rural health care disparities, with the purported goal of overcoming them. Prior to this hearing, nurses across the Commonwealth have been advocating in hospitals as well as at state and national levels regarding unsafe nurse staffing.
As an air nurse who has been to most hospitals from I-15 to I-79, and from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to I-90 in New York, i I added my voice to that of Anne Hardy, former director of emergencies in Bradford. Regional Medical Center to describe our experiences and express our concerns regarding leadership practices at both the hospital and state levels. Since then, Rapp said she hasn’t heard of any dangerous personnel causing harm, which begs the question of whether she paid any attention to the testimony presented, or is she intentionally lying about it? In both cases, she, along with the legislature and the governor, handed the hospital administrators what they wanted: an unconditional bailout.
To be fair, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant financial pressure on hospitals and staff. However, when it comes to staff, much of the pressure could have been alleviated if evidence-based measures presented by nurses at the staff level had been adopted.
She told the hearing that she believes staffing issues should be resolved between staff and facilities, but in these situations, the facilities have traditionally held all the power.
It was only in the wake of the pandemic that increased demand for on-the-go nursing to counter fluid demand for nursing staff that nurses had bargaining power, and now hospitals are crying “mistake” to the point of lobbying for the US Congress to investigate and cap nurses’ salaries.
Previously, healthcare staff left their respective professions altogether, with a 2019 study showing around 500,000 additional nursing jobs remaining by the end of 2022. Instead, we found that the number of members of health staff of all professions were leaving in 1 month in August 2021. Many other staff left their posts for travel positions.
Warren General Hospital President Rick Allen notably denounced the salaries of traveling nurses during the hearing. This disconnect between the care that can be provided by staff and the level to which we are trained is a cause of nursing dissatisfaction that has accelerated the departure of nurses from toxic work environments so that they can be compensated more adequately for the situations in which they are placed. . These situations include seeing patients die due to inability to receive proper care, additional workload from administrators who are unaware of the real situation “on the ground”work that encroaches on personal time, loss of benefits as administrators receive bonuses, and physical and emotional abuse.
Nurses don’t ask anymore “Which of your loved ones must die before things change” because we know that the blame will fall on us, despite our efforts to change the situation. Instead, we’re belittled for “leaving our patients and colleagues suspended”, although we remain in our respective professions. Officials ignored the concerns and efforts of one of the most trusted professions for decades. As a resident of rural northwest Pennsylvania, I let the EMS staff know that if ever I was in dire straits and needed to be taken to the hospital, that if the staff was not able to transport me to Erie, Rochester or Pittsburgh they should be more humane and kill me outright than submit me to the “care” offered by hospitals in this region.
By ignoring the concerns of the staff members who actually provide the care charged by hospitals and who provide the tax base on which you depend, you are decidedly working not only against yourselves, but also against the patients and constituents of our region.
Stop listening to “experts” and bureaucratic administrators, and start listening to those who understand the problem and are working to improve the situation. Give caregivers a light at the end of the tunnel.
Work with us to create the revenue generating units that hospitals and other facilities can charge for the care we provide and thus improve the quality of care provided, which in turn will improve the financial position of organizations by attracting more patients. Hold insurance organizations accountable for reducing reimbursements and creating record profits for themselves. Hold hospital administrators accountable for not providing quality care. And pass the legislation we need to be able to protect not only our healthcare workers, but also our patients.
Christopher Benson is a Turtlepoint, Pennsylvania.