Hospitals Report Nursing Care Levels

BURLINGTON — Eighty-five percent of Massachusetts hospital units provided nursing care at or above planned levels for 2006. That’s according to data released and posted on a public Web site by the Mass. Hospital Association (MHA) and the Mass. Organization of Nurse Executives (MONE).

This is one of the major findings from a first-in-the-nation, voluntary, statewide effort by hospitals to collect and make available to the public the way they staff units for effective patient care. MHA and MONE developed this public reporting of hospital staffing under a broad and expansive agenda for health care quality and patient safety called Patients First.

The numbers for the hours of care (or “worked hours per patient day”) come a year after hospitals in Massachusetts posted their planned — or anticipated — staffing for nearly every inpatient unit in the state. At that time, hospitals pledged to track the care hours that they actually provided as they progressed through 2006.  They delivered on that promise as results for 652 units at 87 hospital sites were posted. The reports compare what was provided to what was planned, note variances, and offer explanations for those variances.  Reports can be viewed atwww.patientsfirstma.org.

“Hospitals are taking a bold step,” said MHA Senior Vice President of Clinical Affairs Karen Nelson, RN. “Nowhere else has this kind of information been made available voluntarily. It is a sign that hospitals here take their responsibility to the public very seriously.

“This demonstrates the confidence that hospitals have in their planning for safe care and their responsiveness to the needs of patients,” she added.

Nelson said the difference between the plans and the actual hours of care provided is a reflection of the constantly changing needs of patients; patient needs cannot always be easily anticipated.  “Caregivers must have the flexibility to staff up or staff down based on what they are experiencing as they tend to the needs of patients,” she emphasized. “In many ways, the requirement for flexibility and the free exercise of good judgment on the frontlines in health care is the central theme that emerges from this project.”

MONE President Patricia Reid Ponte, RN, praised her nursing, physician, and hospital colleagues: “This public reporting is an important demonstration of our commitment to forge ever-stronger partnerships with patients, families, and staff to best meet their needs and provide the right resources for optimal patient care.”

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