Safe Patient Limits Initiative Inches Forward in MA

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media , September 17, 2013

According to the Massachusetts Nurses Association, Massachusetts is one of 10 states and the District of Columbia, to have filed this kind of legislation in the past two years. But right now, the Bay State has no maximum patient limits and no requirements for hospitals to adjust their staffing based on what patients really need, the Association says.

"It's a load 'em up mentality right now," Kelly-Williams says. "I hear from nurses all over the state… they're seeing this ramping-up of additional patients being assigned to a nurse at one time."

Kelly-Williams says not only has she heard of nurses who've been loaded up with nine patients at a time, but she's heard cases of nurses putting up a fight against unsafe patient loads, too.

Pushback does not come without ramifications. "I've heard from nurses who have told me that they have been told that they must take that patient, that they will be disciplined for not accepting that patient."

And she's also has heard of people saying a point-blank "No" to taking more patients.

"But not all nurses are empowered to do that," she says, "And nurses shouldn't be put into a position to have to do that, either."

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is a managing editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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