The comment by James Holmes, president and chief executive officer of Redlands (Calif.) Community Hospital ("Absolute minimum," Jan. 28, p. 8), that he doesn't know where his hospital will get the new nurses who will be needed to make the state's nurse-staffing ratios regulations work, left me wondering what he means.
According to a study last year by Congress' General Accounting Office, some 500,000 nurses across the country are refusing to work for these employers for a variety of reasons that go beyond staffing ratios. When they fix all the problems that the report identified as keeping nurses away-such as abusive forced overtime, short staffing, poor compensation, lack of professional respect and inadequate benefits-they will see nurses popping up out of the woodwork. But they need to fix all of these conditions-not just the issue of numbers of patients.
No registered nurse I know is going to run back to a hospital job where he or she will get no respect from a punitive, abusive administration. As one of those nurses registered in the state but no longer working there, I say, thanks but no thanks, Gov. Gray Davis. You can keep your six patients.
Yes, setting the maximum number of patients for which nurses may care is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough to get me to come back to work there. First, I would have to get a guarantee that I will not be forced to work overtime; that I would be paid commensurate with my education, experience and specialty certification; that I would get free health benefits and an adequate pension plan; that I would be treated with respect and professionalism; and that I would have a safe ratio of patients.
Don't let hospital executives like Holmes tell you that there are not enough nurses out there to help them meet the staffing laws. There most certainly are. There just aren't enough nurses willing to work in the conditions and for the pay the hospitals are offering. Nurses aren't going to come flocking back to the profession just because of a ratio.
Staten Island, N.Y.