Back in June a report by the Leapfrog Group, an independent coalition of health care insurers and employers that ranks hospital quality, listed both UMass hospital campuses among the nine hospitals with the lowest grades for quality care. The grades are based on up to 26 measures, including nurse staffing levels, processes for preventing infection and medication errors, and the rates of patient injuries, bloodstream infections, or surgical errors.
"When nurses have too many patients to care for at one time, complications are more likely and at UMass, we have been warning management about these conditions for two years, yet they continue to cut staff," said Lynne Starbard, RN, a maternity nurse on the UMass Memorial Hospital campus, whose unit has seen some of the deepest cuts in the past year.
In fact, back in May and June at special meetings held with management called by the nurses to discuss the staffing crisis, dozens of nurses from every unit and department at both campuses presented harrowing testimony about how poor staffing conditions on their units are compromising their ability to deliver optimal, and sometimes even safe, patient care. Here are some of the situations presented at those hearings:
An intensive care unit nurse described a horrific night being assigned an unstable patient on an overburdened unit, and the toll it took on her to make it through the shift. "On nights like that you go home crying because you know you didn't do enough, and you know these patients' lives are hanging in the balance of our competence and the staff we have to take care of them."One nurse spoke questioning the veracity of UMass calling itself a Stroke Center of Excellence, when it won't provide its nurses on its neurological floor with the staffing resources they need to deliver appropriate care. "You need to sit with these patients for a good hour to go over their systems; they are all on telemetry monitors, some are aphasic, which means they can't tell you what they need. If we had the staffing numbers we need we could have the time to spend with these patients. We could better prevent falls and we would have the time to provide education; teaching them how to recognize or prevent another stroke."