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Nurses come to Annapolis to address some important issues

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on March 11, 2002:

Senator Dyson There were numerous nurses in the halls of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Matters Committee lobbying for better working conditions that they rightly deserve.

The most important piece of proposed legislation that came up was one that I have written about before: A nurse’s bill of rights. This bill, of which I am a primary co-sponsor, declares that nurses have specified rights they are not currently accorded. These include prohibiting an employer from taking retribution against a nurse if the nurse discloses or objects to an activity, policy, or practice reasonably believed to pose a risk to the health, safety, or welfare of a patient or the public as well as prohibiting an employer from requiring a nurse to work more than the scheduled hours.

The hearing on this bill went very well and I have strong expectations that it will pass out of the committee and receive a favorable vote on the floor of the Senate.

I believe strongly that this bill will go along way towards addressing one of our main concerns in this state and that is a terrible shortage of nurses.

Many nurses are forced to work double shifts up to as much as 16 or more hours. It is extremely important that nurses are fully focused on the important work they do. If they are fatigued, the chances of them making a mistake are greatly increased.

For instance, in the fall of 1999, the Institute of Medicine reported that more people die from medical errors than they do from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer or AIDS.

As our population grows older than it ever has, unfortunately, our nurse shortage situation is close to disastrous.

According to testimony at the recent hearing on the Nurses’ Bill of Rights from a nurse and spokesperson for the Professional Staff Nurses Association:

  • Fifty-eight percent say they do not have time to provide patient teaching and education.

  • Fifty-four percent say that half or more of the errors they report are the direct result of inadequate staffing.

  • By 2020 there is projected shortage of 400,000 nurses in this country.

  • By 2010, 40 percent of working registered nurses (RNs) will be over the age of 50; the average age of RNs is 45.

  • Nationally, hospitals have up to 168,000 positions open, 75 percent of which are for registered nurses.

In 2000, the vacancy rate among RNs rose to nearly 14 percent, up from 11 percent in 1999. She assured the committee that this rate would rise again by this year.

At Calvert Memorial Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital, nursing vacancies range from four to 10 percent and those are two of the most highly regarded hospitals in the state. The nursing shortage at St. Mary’s, albeit below the state average is of concern considering the fact that the institution is financing a major expansion.

We’ve got to do everything we can to avoid this type of potential disaster and Senate Bill 537 -- Nurses’ Bill of Rights will go along way towards preventing this.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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