Mass.: Nurses, Policymakers Face Off over Staffing Rules

By Diane Cadrain Jun 9, 2015
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Massachusetts hospital employers are noting the conflict between the state’s unionized nurses and the Health Care Policy Commission as the two entities face off over rules for the staffing of intensive care units (ICU).

The new rules, unveiled on May 20, 2015, violate the intent of the laws and jeopardize patient safety, Massachusetts Nurses Association spokesman David Schildmeier told the Boston Business Journal. They give the hospital industry “loopholes you could drive a truck through,” Schildmeier said, claiming that the rules were written to appease the Massachusetts Hospital Association. One point of contention is that the rules do not create a default setting of one patient to one nurse.

The rules say that no ICU nurse may have more than two patients, with the number determined by a formula called an acuity tool. Staff nurses have the responsibility of using the acuity tool, and because of their involvement, the American Nurses Association supported the collaboration between staff nurses and nursing leadership.

“We want the nurses to be able to make the decision based on what’s going on, not based on a cookie cutter rule,” Myra Cacace, president of the American Nurses Association of Massachusetts Board of Directors, told the Business Journal.

The law underlying the new rules, enacted in 2014, regulated ICU staffing and mandated no more than two patients to each nurse.

The rules are scheduled to become final at the end of June.

Diane Cadrain is an attorney who has been writing about employment law issues for more than 20 years.

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