If Fraser Health is concerned that “nursing sensitive events” are afflicting patients at Ridge Meadows Hospital, it should hire more nurses, and let them do their jobs, says the hospital’s B.C. Nurse’s Union rep.
“Nursing sensitive events” is jargon for infections, bed sores and even fractures which occur while patients are hospitalized, and which presumably could be prevented by nurses.
A recent review of Fraser Health says Ridge Meadows, Surrey Memorial and Burnaby hospitals all have double the national average rate of nursing-sensitive events, “with no demonstrated improvement over the past three years.”
That could be interpreted as blaming nurses for health care complications, which is how Debbie Picco, the co-chair for the BCNU’s Simon Fraser Region reads it. “That’s what the employer is doing,” she said.
“There are not enough staff to safely care for patients.”
The nurses say that Fraser Health is “devolving nursing into a series of tasks that need to be done,” without respect for the nurse’s professional judgement.
“We’re losing RN (registered nurse) and LPN (licensed practical nurse) positions to unregistered caregivers,” she continued.
Picco graduated from nursing school in 1976, and her last job before taking a union position five years ago was home care in Maple Ridge.
When she started in the profession, departments were run by head nurses who knew the profession. Now, there are more non-nursing managers.
“The people leading the wards are not people who know about nursing care,” she asserts.
“The philosophy of management is a business philosophy now. And patient care has suffered.”
Nurses have also complained about an increasing workload that is not direct patient care. They say they do more data collection and paperwork than before. While nurses do not dispute the work is valuable to the employer, Picco said more staff should be added to make sure there is time to do it, without reducing time spent with patients.
Although the review, the three-year Fraser Health Strategic Plan, announced there would be “investing in more community care,” Picco said the union has been told that home care in Maple Ridge is losing 1.5 nursing positions.
She said the revelations in the plan confirmed much of what nurses have been saying.
“We’re not surprised. We have been telling the employer about problems for a long time.”
And, she said nurses at Ridge Meadows Hospital are not in a unique situation.
“Every hospital has complaints about what they’re expected to do, with not enough nurses.”
Fraser Health interim CEO Dr. David Ostrow said the stats reflect situations such as nurses using more catheters for patients, causing an increase in urinary tract infections, rather than walking patients to the washroom.
“When nurses are overwhelmed sometimes, that’s what they might do.”
Similarly, disruptive patients are more likely to be sedated by busy nurses, and the use of sedatives correlates to more hospital falls.
However, Ostrow said the number of nurses is not the issue, and that the health authority has nurse staffing levels per capita and per patient which are among the highest in the province.
His agreed with Picco’s comments that there should be more focus on patient care.
“We need to be smarter in how we se all of our nursing staff.”
He said the data in the report, taken from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, is from the 2009-2012 time frame, and is “a little bit out of date.”
Also, he said nursing sensitive events are just one indicator of many that could be used, and that Ridge Meadows Hospital may perform better in other areas.
Ostrow characterized the strategic direction as “a time for sobering introspection and refocussing of the organization.”