IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWL) — Nurses at the University of Iowa Health Clinic (UIHC) protested outside the hospital Thursday afternoon against nurse-to-patient ratios. They worry about staffing as they move up.
Nurses say they may have to handle more patients at a time. These nurses fear that the increase in the number of patients will compromise the quality of care they can provide.
In an email last Friday from a hospital chief obtained by KWWL, the first two weeks of October have the most staffing issues.
“The first two weeks of October present the most challenges when it comes to staffing,” the email states. “Challenges will continue for inpatient adult staffing until mid-November. I have already received feedback and suggestions from staff on how to ensure staff care for five patients safely.
Ashley Lynn, a cardiology unit nurse who has worked at UIHC for 8.5 years, says an increase in the nurse-to-patient ratio will make it impossible to treat everyone qualitatively.
Along with treating and assessing patients, Lynn says a big part of the job is talking to and listening to patients. With another patient to care for and more responsibilities, Lynn says they may not have time to build a relationship with patients.
“Be present with the patient, ask how you are and how did you sleep? I mean, it makes a big difference to your patient,” Lynn told KWWL. “And if you’re feeling so busy that you can’t ask those questions because they might talk to you for 10 minutes, that’s a problem.”
On the University of Iowa website, 381 nursing positions are open – 144 full-time.
“Would I skip my 12-hour shift? Yeah,” Lynn said. “Would I feel good going home about the care I provided, no. It’s because my patients wouldn’t be getting the care they deserve.”
In the aforementioned email from last Friday, a UIHC executive said he was open to suggestions for resolving staffing issues. They said leaders will also be in the field more often to fill some staffing gaps.
In a statement from the UIHC, they said: “Hospital staff can change quickly depending on the number of patients and the severity of their illness. When more staff is needed, existing staff have the option of taking on shifts or overtime for extra pay.
They added: “The UIHC is committed to and will always provide safe, high quality care. This means having a team of staff who care for patients in a safe and supportive working environment.”
Traveling nurses are a way to help relieve staff for a few months. The UIHC says the number of traveling nurse contracts has remained constant, but the number of traveling nurses can vary from month to month.
Traveling nurses can earn more than full-time nurses. It depends on the market rate. The UIHC says they pay market-competitive rates.