AFT nurses join fight for safe patient limits in Mass.

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The Massachusetts Nurses Association kicked off a signature-gathering effort on Sept. 26 to put safe staffing limits on the state ballot for 2018. Advocates and unionized nurses from Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, including members of AFT Connecticut as well as Health Professionals and Allied Employees, went to Boston to help collect signatures.

The MNA's Campaign for Safe Patient Care is focused on getting the 70,000 signatures needed to place the Patient Safety Act on the state ballot. The act would improve safety in Massachusetts hospitals by setting a safe maximum limit on the number of patients assigned to a nurse at one time, while providing flexibility to hospitals to adjust nurses' patient assignments based on specific patient needs.

AFT nurses Ashley Cordero and Jeri Brandt

The nurses who traveled to Boston say the campaign is a great opportunity to help nurses in other states in their fight for safe staffing.

"Safe staffing is important to all health professionals," says AFT member Bill Garrity, a registered nurse at the University of Connecticut Health Center. "A ballot initiative lets the voters decide, and because nurses garner a lot of respect, many of the people we've talked to are overwhelmingly supportive."

Dozens of prominent research studies and reports show the need to set a limit on the number of patients who can be assigned to each registered nurse at one time to avoid mistakes, serious complications and preventable readmissions.

"Putting safe staffing standards in hospitals is a national issue," says Jeri Brandt, a registered nurse at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in New Jersey and an HPAE member (pictured above right with Ashley Cordero). "We're here to show solidarity. This could be the catalyst for establishing safe staffing legislation for our side of the country. A win for Massachusetts is a win for us all."

[Adrienne Coles]