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Arizona Nurses Rally at Capitol for Patient Safety - Thursday

'Heart Teams' of Nurses to Explain to Legislators and Public the Urgent

Need for HB 2041, The Arizona Patient Protection Act

Bill Guarantees Safe RN-to-Patient Staffing Ratios, Protects Nurse


PHOENIX, Feb. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Registered nurses from throughout Arizona will hold a major rally this Thursday, February 14 in a bid to improve the state's healthcare by passing a key patient safety bill. After the rally, they will form "Heart Teams" and lobby legislators to pass HB 2041, legislation that would make Arizona hospitals safer by guaranteeing safe nurse-to-patient ratios, protecting the right of nurses to act as whistle-blowers against unsafe conditions, and offering legal recognition of the professional and moral obligations of RNs to act as patient advocates, solely in the interests of their patients.

The RNs, members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee, will be joined at their rally by Rep. Tom Prezelski, the sponsor of the legislation, as well as other legislative cosponsors and Rebekah Friend, the executive director of the Arizona AFL-CIO. The nurse "Heart Teams" will tell legislators: "Don't break our hearts on Valentine's Day."

RNs Rally for Patient Safety

DATE: Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008

TIME: 12 Noon Rally

PLACE: State Capitol Front Plaza Complex -- 17th Avenue b/w Adams &


Nurses across the state worked to introduce the bill amid increasing alarm about the erosion of care conditions in Arizona hospitals -- conditions that put patients at risk and worsen the nursing shortage as many RNs refuse to work in unsafe hospitals.

Among its major provisions, the Act:

-- Mandates minimum, specific RN-to-patient staffing ratios which are

widely seen by nurses and health care experts to be the most effective

standard for safer nursing care and for promoting the retention and

recruitment of RNs.

-- Whistle-blower protection for RNs who report unsafe hospital conditions

or for refusing unsafe patient care assignments.

-- Legal recognition of the right of RNs to act as advocates for their

patients rather than for the economic interests of their hospital


"HB 2041 would dramatically improve our ability to provide care," said Tracey Chavez, a lithotripsy RN at Catholic Healthcare West St. Joe's Hospital. "Too frequently RNs encounter unsafe situations where they simply have too many patients. We are forced into making decisions that compromise our ability to provide the best patient care versus the risk of losing or maintaining our jobs. I know the ratios in California are working, nurses are returning to hospitals. We need this legislation in order to provide a higher level of care for our patients and to see nurses return to the profession they love."

The Act's ratios are modeled after the successful 1999 law in California that was strengthened again on January 1. Ratios differ by hospital area, such as a minimum of no less than one RN for every five patients in general medical or post-surgical care units, 1:4 in pediatrics, and 1:4 in emergency rooms. The ratios are a floor, not a ceiling, with hospitals also required to increase registered nurse staffing as needed based on individual patient illness or acuity.

"Hospitals have a responsibility to staff properly in order for nurses to provide quality care for patients. Hospitals aren't doing that," said Diane Baker, an RN at Flagstaff Medical Center. "The Arizona Patient Protection Act requires staffing levels, at all times, based on the acuity of the patient. This will save lives and allow us to provide the care that our fellow Arizonians deserve."

"California's ratios are a spectacular success story," said Zenei Cortez, RN, member of the NNOC/CNA Council of Presidents. "Under our ratio law, lives are being saved, our ability to be effective advocates for our patients is stronger, and more RNs are entering the work force and staying at the bedside longer -- mitigating the nursing shortage."

Since the law was signed, 80,000 more licensed RNs have joined California's workforce.

In addition to Arizona, NNOC/CNA members are promoting similar bills in Illinois, Maine, Ohio, and Texas, and working with the Massachusetts Nurses Association on a proposed ratio law in their state. "RNs across the nation have seen the future, and the enormous benefits of this law. They know it works for patients, nurses, and communities," said Cortez.

Multiple academic studies have pointed to the benefits of minimum, safe, RN-to-patients ratios, including one study ("Hospital Nurses Staffing and Patient Mortality, Nurses, Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction," in the October 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association) that found that for every patient above four "assigned to a nurse, the mortality rate rises 7 percent" -- meaning the difference between an RN caring for four and eight patients could be an increase of as much as 28 percent in mortality, endangering thousands of Arizona patients every year.


The National Nurses Organizing Committee, founded by the California Nurses Association, is a national movement for registered nurses with some 80,000 members from California to Maine.

SOURCE National Nurses Organizing Committee
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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