Last November’s statewide ballot saw Massachusetts voters roundly reject government-mandated nurse staffing ratios by a 70% to 30% vote. Of the commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns, 346 of them voted against mandated ratios. Since then, nursing groups, hospital officials and others have worked on recouping from the tough political battle by, among other actions, addressing violence prevention measures in the healthcare workplace, engaging in initiatives to recognize and reward nurses and other caregivers for the demanding work they do, and promoting the ability of Massachusetts R.N.s to practice across state lines. (See nurse licensure story below.)
But the Massachusetts Nurses Association – representing less than one quarter of the R.N.s in the state – remains fixated on ratios. The MNA tried to insert into the House budget an amendment that would re-open the door on the scientifically unsound ratio scheme and ultimately impose ratios on hospitals. The House did not adopt that amendment and so the nursing union is attempting the same in the Senate budget. The MNA also has stand-alone legislation this session to once again promote its repeatedly rejected ratio scheme.
“Numerous studies and real-life experiences have already shown that mandated ratios don’t work – and policymakers, researchers, and the voters of Massachusetts understand this,” said Patricia Noga, R.N., MHA’s V.P. of Clinical Affairs. “It’s time to shift our collective focus to meaningful improvements that will benefit patients and healthcare professionals alike, across every element of our care delivery system. To this end, cross-sector collaborative approaches are now moving forward on patient-centered scientific models of care, workplace safety and quality of life improvements, and increasing the supply of patient care professionals across all care settings.”