April 1, 2014
Please include the following as a written statement for Law Amendments:
In March 2012 my son decided to unexpectedly arrive ten weeks early. We spent two months at the IWK in the NICU. While in NICU 1, there is one nurse for one baby. At the time, it boggled my mind that my little 2.5lb boy had one nurse designated to watch HIM and him alone. But my son, and all of the other children in NICU1, were in for the fight of their lives. Some of the little fighters were not so lucky. But those who were lucky enough to move on to NICU 2 did so because of the constant care; their nurse literally watched over them and fought for them just as hard (if not harder) than I did as a mom.
As we progressed through the NICU, ratios climbed. Patients became less critical and with that came increased workloads. As parents, we felt the shift immediately. One nurse was now responsible for two or three babies. When their colleague went on a break, they were responsible for double that. It was during these regular breaks that my heart would race and I would be on high alert. Bells and alarms would sound simultaneously. Babies would have apneas and need stimulation to restart their breathing. I’ve seen babies turn blue. Regular medications needed to be dispensed. Beds needed to be changed. Babies needed to be changed, fed every three hours, bathed. Not to mention the constant barrage of questions from worried parents. And I’m certain that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen nurses juggle it all with expert skill and composure.
My friend's piece she submitted to the paper also illustrates the importance of ratios and how that translates to the care we receive. Why we sometimes have to wait 9 hours in an ER when there are beds available. Why some patients are sitting on a stretcher in the hallway for hours.
It is quite amazing there aren't more deaths, truthfully, when you consider all they are juggling and the resources and support that keeps being taken away. You can periodically run on burnout, but just because it CAN be done, doesn't mean it should be the new normal. The expectation should not be that nurses perpetually have to work at 150% because they are terrified someone is going to be missed and potentially die on their watch. Demanding that intensity of work is a recipe and guarantee for mistakes and misses.
Ultimately, the argument against keeping the ratios on the table is the cost to do so; the cost of hiring more nurses and keeping the staffing levels where they SHOULD be. Of course the total cost is drastically inflated for argument sake.
Interestingly enough, our healthcare system is about to get hit HARD. The baby boombers who all hit the education system and created the need for additional schools in the 60s/70s and the shortage of jobs in the 80s are now just STARTING to stress the healthcare system. With an ageing population that are living longer than ever before, they are entering the system with a MUCH more complex care plan. With an onslaught of retirements and the increased demand for services for the next 20-30 years, the healthcare system cannot afford to alienate and put unrealistic expectations on staff...therefore putting everyone at great risk.