University of Iowa nurses plan to protest nurse-to-patient ratios

University of Iowa Health Care Complex, which houses the University of Iowa hospitals and clinics. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY – University of Iowa health care leaders have informed employees that nurses in the coming weeks will face “some of the toughest” staffing to date – warning that nurses in some units will sometimes have to take five patients at a time.

“The first two weeks of October present the most staffing challenges,” a UIHC executive warned last week, according to an email provided to The Gazette. “But 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.

Some UIHC nurses report that “increasing nurse-to-patient ratios” is off the table, and they coordinated a protest about it outside the hospital on Thursday.

“We refuse to let our hospital administrators make bad decisions that affect our quality of care because they couldn’t plan well and prepare properly,” according to a Facebook event page for the protest encouraging staff, patients, family and managers to “bring the bells, noisemakers, signs, EVERYTHING!”

The protest is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday along Hawkins Drive outside parking ramp 3.

“Increasing nurse-to-patient ratios is NOT the answer,” according to the event page. “You can’t have quality and safety as a priority when you stretch your nurses so thin they go home crying!!”

In response to questions from The Gazette about nurse shortages and whether the UIHC was increasing nurse-to-patient ratios, officials did not say whether five patients per nurse was an increase and, if so, by how much. UI Health Care provided a statement describing any personnel changes as optional.

“Hospital staffing needs can change rapidly depending on the number of patients and their level of acuity (severity of illness),” the statement said. “When more staff is needed, existing staff have the option of taking shifts or overtime for extra pay.”

The UIHC is “committed – and always will be – to providing safe, high-quality care,” the statement said. “It means having a team of staff caring for patients in a safe and supportive work environment.”

Among the strategies UIHC has employed to manage ongoing nursing shortages is the use of traveling nurses – who come for several months at a time and are paid through contracts the university signs with agencies. temporary nurses. These nurses are generally paid more than registered nurses.

In response to questions about whether its travel nurse contracts are changing or if its travel nurse staffing is or has changed in any way, UIHC officials said that “the travel nurse contracts travel nurse have remained consistent at UI Health Care”.

“The number of travel nurses taking on these roles can vary from month to month. Traveler rates vary based on supply and demand and prevailing market rates, and we continue to pay contracted rates that are market competitive.

near capacity

Of the university’s 866 inpatient beds, 805 were in use Wednesday, or 93% full.

The UI jobs website, among other healthcare openings, lists 380 open “nursing” positions, including 144 full-time and 236 part-time jobs on campus — work and childbirth to adult psychiatry and nursing management positions to nursing assistants.

In Friday’s email warning about staffing needs in the event of a shortage, a UIHC unit manager said: ‘We are open to any suggestions on how to staff during these challenges. .”

“You can expect to see leaders more often in the field trying to fill in some of the holes while balancing what we need to accomplish in the office,” the email reads. “I know this is really hard for all of us to hear, and I understand the feelings of frustration and nervousness about what the future holds. I hope we can all come together to help get through this ordeal. as a team.

In a statement, UI Hospitals and Clinics Acting General Manager Kim Hunter reiterated, “We are committed to providing the safe, high-quality care that Iowans trust us to provide while striving to support the health and well-being of our employees.

“In healthcare, staffing is flexible and we safely adapt resources to the ever-changing needs of patients,” she said. “We are grateful to our nursing and care teams who come together to support each other as they care for our patients and their families.

New buildings, leadership

The UIHC is nearing the end of its search for a new vice president of medical affairs for UI Health Care and dean of its Carver College of Medicine, after outgoing Brooks Jackson announced in February his intention to step down and join the UI faculty as a researcher.

Jackson has pledged to stay on until his successor begins, and a nationwide search recently brought four finalists to campus — a group that included two women and two men, two who identify as racial minorities, from from institutions across the country, including Chicago, Dartmouth, New Hampshire, and the University of North Carolina.

UI President Barbara Wilson did not announce a final selection.

Once that person is in place, the university will begin to replace Hospitals and Clinics CEO Suresh Gunasekaran, who left in February to lead the University of California San Francisco’s Academic Health System.

UIHC’s top revenue comes as company moves forward with new $525.6 million hospital campus in North Liberty; a $95 million expansion of its inpatient tower; and a $24.6 million emergency room expansion, among other projects.

The campus also announced plans to spend $620.9 million over the next five years on a new inpatient tower on UIHC’s main campus and $212 million on a new “modern research center on Healthcare”.

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