Originally created 09/22/00

Registered nurses vital to care



In 1984 a popular commercial had a very determined woman asking, "Where's the beef?" She would then look in the bun and under the pickle until she found a very tiny meat patty. Again she would ask, "Where's the beef?"

That's the kind of patient we need in every clinic, hospital bed, and every health-care setting in the nation. Registered nurses should educate patients and families to be that relentless in asking, "Where's the registered nurse?"

A 1998 study found that patients who have surgery done in hospitals with fewer registered nurses run a higher risk of developing avoidable complications following surgery.

Among the adverse events the study found associated with lower RN-to-patients staffing were increased urinary tract infections, pneumonia, blood clots, pulmonary congestion and other lung-related problems. In hospitals, where care is primarily restricted to the acutely ill as a result of tighter insurance industry restrictions, the demand for RNs has never been greater.

Mary Foley, American Nursing Association president, says, "Patients and families should ask their doctors, nurses, and hospital management about staffing in their local hospitals. Consumers should call or visit a hospital before being admitted to determine the level of RN staffing. Some questions the public can ask include:

Will I have a registered nurse caring for me?

How many patients are assigned to each RN on the unit where I will stay?

Are RNs routinely required to stay beyond their scheduled shift?

How does the hospital provide for RN staffing when there is an unexpected shortage on the unit?

Anyone can take blood pressure or temperature, but it takes a nurse to collect the data properly, interpret it correctly, and act on it efficiently and effectively.

Lisa M. Jones, Augusta