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LETTER: North Hawai‘i Community Hospital Nurses Need Your Support

April 17, 2019, 7:59 AM HST (Updated April 20, 2019, 3:55 PM)
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The nurses at North Hawai‘i Community Hospital are professional, dedicated, diligent caregivers who work exceedingly hard. At the moment, they are operating without a union contract, as it has recently expired, and negotiations are underway. As a previous employee at the hospital, and also a recent patient, I can speak from both the inner workings and outward manifestation of the way nurses are expected, by hospital management, to function.

Any five-minute internet search will get you a mountain of research articles substantiating the importance of nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. Study after study demonstrates, unequivocally, appropriate nurse to patient staffing is associated with improved clinical outcomes, increased patient satisfaction scores and decreased patient mortality—just to name a few. Appropriate ratios also affect nursing staff by promoting nurse safety, nurse retention and job satisfaction.

Management at North Hawai‘i Community Hospital seems to think otherwise. From refusing repeated requests by nurses to follow staffing guidelines based on research recognized by national organizations, to floating nurses from one unit to another without appropriate training, nurses are viewed as expendable pawns that can be moved around the chessboard as management thinks fit.

The phrase “a nurse is a nurse” was first said by a manger a couple years ago when nurses began pushing back about having to float to units outside their specialty. The implication by that statement was, because you have your nursing degree, you should be able to work on any unit in the hospital. Nursing specialties are common, and it’s not unheard of that a nurse works within her specialty for the entirety of her career. I wouldn’t make an appointment with my dermatologist if I was having issues with my heart. It’s the exact same concept when a nurse is floated to a unit outside her area of expertise.

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There are laws mandating the ratio of children to providers at daycares. There are laws mandating the ratio of children to teachers in public school. There are laws mandating staffing on ambulances. Why aren’t there laws mandating nurse-to-patient ratios?

I urge the community to reach out to North Hawai‘i Community Hospital’s upper management and show support for the hardworking nurses and staff there. They leave their own families at home every day to care for yours. Wouldn’t you want to know your mom, dad, son or daughter is receiving the safest care possible when they’re at their most vulnerable?

Letters, commentaries and opinion pieces are not edited by Big Island Now.

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