When I started as a staff nurse in the emergency department five years ago, I immediately felt at home with both our staff and our patients. I believed I worked for an organization that prioritized patient care above all else.
Despite recent claims from the nurse’s union and Diane Spencer in her op-ed on August 15, I still believe the staff at Christus St. Vincent puts patients first every single day.
I have attended the same staffing committee Spencer referenced and I am disappointed in her one-sided dialogue demonstrated at each of the staffing council meetings. The focus of the staffing council was always to ensure safe staffing sustainability to ensure the future of the hospital for the community.
Spencer claimed she had recorded months of staffing insufficiencies and provided those reports to the administration.
However, Spencer was given access to the very same reporting system I use to determine productivity (a metric for staffing), yet chose to ignore the validity of our system in favor of voluntary self-reports by staff and her own calculations.
The union’s claims of short staffing aren’t substantiated when you look at the same reports generated by calculations standard to the industry.
Spencer also states that “volumes of scholarly information” were provided that substantiated staffing levels.
During my participation on the staffing committee, I was provided with three articles that mentioned the consideration of patient acuity in regards to staffing levels. I was unaware that three articles constituted a volume of work.
In my opinion, if such articles truly reflected evidence-based practice, our organization would be the exception, not the norm, when considering staffing levels.
The hallmark of many BSN programs is the inclusion of a nurse management course. In such courses, nurses are typically taught the basics of nurse staffing, management of staffing, calculations of productivity and various other factors used in determining resource allocation.
Despite this educational standard, Spencer and her associates have failed to understand the basic principles behind staffing and productivity, which has led to the union’s continued confusion regarding staffing and productivity.
From the start, the focus of the staffing committee was to evaluate processes to ensure the appropriate use of resources designated to each unit. Every time I suggested a change in practice to reduce inefficiencies, I was met with the union adage that more staffing would solve the issue.
The fact of the matter is we do not practice in the same health care environment as we did five years ago, or even one year ago. However, Spencer seems to think that, regardless of changes within the environment of health care, our current practices should not change.
Spencer has asked for safe staffing. As a manager, it is my duty to ensure that my nurses practice in a safe environment to provide the highest level of patient care. To insinuate that I do not care about the environment of practice for my unit or my organization is the ultimate insult.
Despite what Spencer is saying about current staffing levels, our patient care outcomes have increased, along with our patient satisfaction.
Do not be misled by Spencer’s comments. Spencer states that she is “accountable for her nursing practice.” I urge that same level of accountability in her statements as well.
I also stand for safe staffing but, unlike Spencer, I am willing to consider all options to achieve that goal.