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Bravo for passing Staffing Plan Disclosure Act

With all the news about what came out of the Capitol this year, one change that shouldn’t be missed is hospitals will now report how many nurses are working where and when.

Everyone who’s a patient in a hospital, who might be a patient in a hospital, or who cares about somebody in a hospital will be grateful that the Staffing Plan Disclosure Act was signed into law on May 9.

Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) and Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis) authored a bill that provides for consumer transparency of hospitals’ nurse staffing plans. In addition, the Department of Health will study the correlation between nurse staffing and patient outcomes, with a final report due in January 2015.

Starting in January of 2014, patients will be able to see how many nurses care for them on a public website at Hospitals will be more transparent, and patients will make wiser decisions on where they have a procedure and where they can expect to make the best possible recovery.

We have a right to know this information because the healthcare industry as a whole operates behind a brick wall of secrecy. For example, the federal government recently released a report showing huge differences between what different hospitals charge for the same procedures. Sometimes, even doctors and nurses don’t know what kind of care to expect as patients at hospitals. That’s why transparency in patient care is so important. Hospitals that operate consistently with regard to patient safety should be recognized and those that cut corners to save money must also be singled out.

Throughout the legislative session, nurses told legislators that because there is no minimum staffing standard, they frequently can’t answer the call button or give a patient his or her medication on time. That’s not easy for nurses to admit. Nurses are hardwired to care for people. They stretch themselves to the limit to ensure no patient is forgotten. This law is a first step in allowing patients to choose where they get their care based on how many nurses will take care of them. Patients should check the website periodically to see how their local hospitals are doing, and if the hospitals aren’t reporting their staffing levels, they should tell their lawmaker that we all have a right to know who’s taking care of us. — Linda Hamilton, president, Minnesota Nurses Association