SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

November 15, 2013

Nurses campaign in Methuen to limit patient load

METHUEN — Several nurses set up shop near the School Street entrance of the senior center in Methuen last month, catching visitors for their signatures for a ballot initiative that would limit the number of patients a nurse can have at one time.

The proposal, which could reach the ballot for next year’s gubernatorial and midterm congressional election, would limit many nurses in hospitals to four patients at a time. Critical-care and intensive-care nurses and emergency-room nurses would be limited to fewer patients, depending on those patients’ conditions.

Hospitals and hospital groups oppose the proposal, saying it reduces flexibility by binding their hands in providing care and could jack up already high medical costs in the state.

“There is no limit to the number of patients a nurse cares for,” said Karen Higgins, a staff nurse at Boston Medical Center and a member of the Massachusetts Nursing Association, which was collecting signatures here Oct. 22. “You could have four (per nurse) or you could have eight.”

The petition would cap at four the number of patients most nurses, including emergency, pediatric, medical and surgical, according to a copy of the initiative. Intensive-care or critical-care nurses could only have one patient, or two if the patients’ conditions are stable. Emergency-room nurses would have between one and four, depending on the patients’ conditions.

Donna Kelly-Williams, president of the Mass. Nurses Association, said that in many situations, four patients per nurse is ideal, but hospital and provider consolidation has led to a higher ratio.

“More patients are being assigned to nurses,” she said, adding that the trend has been worsening over the last five years.

Lynn Nichols, president of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, said in a statement that the group opposes assigning ratio limits because “patient care is best determined by the caregiving team at the bedside, not by a government-set fixed formula. Patient-care staffing decisions should always be based on the best interest of the patient — not a number. Nurses don’t treat numbers; they treat people. Hospitals shouldn’t be required to staff by numbers, either.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World

Local News
  • Keenan to resign to take Salem State job

    SALEM — State Rep. John Keenan said Tuesday he will resign from office Aug. 24 to take a new job as vice president of administration at Salem State University.
    His announcement ended months of speculation about where the five-term Democrat would end up after leaving the Legislature. As it turns out, he is leaving four months before his term would have expired.

    July 29, 2014

  • 140730_SN_DLE_DEMOLITION5 Demolition of Salem Harbor Station begins

    SALEM -- It all begins with B5. Or ends, depending on how you look at it. Demolition began at Salem Harbor Station Wednesday afternoon, with crews first setting upon one of the power plant's 11 steel tanks. The work was supposed to begin Monday, but

    July 31, 2014 7 Photos

  • Market Basket seeks replacement workers through job fair next week

    Market Basket began advertising a job fair for store managers and assistant managers in a direct shot at the current managers who signed petitions Monday threatening to resign if former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas is not rehired. The ad, which will appear

    July 31, 2014 2 Stories

  • Mary Manning Recovering Salem principal says thanks

    SALEM -- Just about a month before she was set to retire after 25 years as the principal of Collins Middle School, Mary Manning entered the hospital with a life-threatening condition. She hasn't been home since. A month later, in June, friends and co

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Former school janitor Robert Scribner sentenced for assaults in truck

    SALEM -- A now-former Marblehead school janitor was ordered to serve a year in jail Wednesday after pleading guilty to charges that he assaulted and threatened to kill his estranged girlfriend after trapping her in his pickup truck in May. Robert Scr

    July 31, 2014