Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The ANA Speaks Out

Perusing the internet today, I noticed an article that described how a recent American Nurses Association House of Delegates meeting ended with several notable resolutions being passed. Let's take a look at those resolutions and their potential impact.

Resolution on Nurse Staffing

Short-staffing apparently made the ANA's short list as a hot-button issue when it comes to patient care and the job satisfaction of nurses out there in the field. The ANA delegates identified that nurses largely lack control over staffing, and the ANA is recommending that staffing be an issue controlled by nurses, with minimum nurse-patient ratios and enforceable norms and the potential for penalties for non-compliant facilities.

According to the ANA press release, ANA President Karen Daley, PhD, FN, FAAN, stated: “Finding solutions to unsafe nurse staffing conditions is a top priority for ANA. It is not acceptable to put patients at risk because of inadequate staffing. Research shows that higher levels of nurse staffing result in better patient outcomes, so our job is to make sufficient staffing a reality nationwide.”

Requesting a law that enforces safe nurse-to-patient ratios may be an uphill battle, and the fact that we are in an election year probably does not bode well for such an initiative.

The ANA does carry a fair amount of clout and influence in the health care industry, but I do wonder if the powers that be truly want to focus their attention on nurse-to-patient ratios in a time of cost-cutting and belt-tightening and an uncertain economic climate. Meanwhile, mandatory overtime and other nefarious practices continue unabated, and nurses continue to leave to leave the profession.

Environmental Issues

A resolution was passed by the ANA delegates in terms of an initiative to educate nurses regarding the dangers to human health from coal power plants, coal extraction, oil and gas drilling, and fracking. Unbeknownst to me, the ANA is currently involved in legal action "to require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to enforce more effective and protective pollution control standards for coal-fired power plants that emit hazardous air pollutants such as mercury."

This news comes as a great surprise to me and I applaud the ANA for taking a stance and calling attention to the health risks related to our dependence on fossil fuels. This is a welcome statement from the ANA. 

Workplace Violence

Violence prevention was also addressed by the ANA delegates with the following statement:

"The workplace violence prevention measure notes that health care workplaces experience a disproportionate share of non-fatal violence. It requests the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to require employers to develop workplace violence prevention programs that would include employee involvement; risk assessment and surveillance; environmental, architectural, and security controls; and training and education. In ANA’s 2011 Health & Safety Survey, about one in 10 nurses said they had been physically assaulted in the past year, half had been threatened or verbally abused, and one-third ranked on-the-job assault as one of their three top safety concerns."

This is another laudable stance by the ANA, and I would be interested to learn more about their specific recommendations for decreasing workplace violence and increasing safety for healthcare workers. The press release continues:

"(The) Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2009 show that RNs reported more than 2,000 assaults and violent acts that required an average of four days away from work. The same year, the Emergency Nurses Association reported that more than 50 percent of emergency center nurses had experienced violence by patients on the job. Numerous states have enacted laws requiring employer-sponsored violence prevention programs, study of the issue or reporting of incidents; or strengthening legal penalties against perpetrators."

The Future is Unwritten

I am impressed by the breadth of these statements by the ANA while being simultaneously underwhelmed by the current availability of  details vis-a-vis the organization's specific recommendations in each admittedly well-deserving area of concern.

I look forward to learning more, and also look forward to seeing how the ANA continues to take strong stances on issues of concern to nurses (and others), following up such statements with concrete action and alliance-building with similarly aligned organizations such as Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Nurses and nursing organizations must leverage their power and influence, and the ANA's most recent press release is an example of how such influence can potentially make an impact if it is followed by concerted action and does not simply remain words on paper.

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