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Researchers: New Survey Data Supports Higher Nurse Staffing Levels

jawa9000 via Creative Commons

A new survey of Illinois hospital nurses shows a large majority feel overworked, undervalued, and even unsafe.

Just over 500 Illinois nurses participated in a national survey led by University of Illinois researchers and left-leaning Illinois Economic Policy Institute. It asserts they face some pretty grim working conditions: nurses care for more than five patients at a time per shift, more than in some other states, and less than 20 percent feel safe on the job.

The survey also found the majority of nurses say they might face retaliation for speaking up about the conditions.

The study polled 9,000 nurses across the country on working conditions and staffing levels, with an overall margin of error of about one percent. The Illinois sample, 508 hospital nurses in total, had a four percent margin.

Robert Bruno, one of the researchers, says the results point to one good solution:

“The market needs good policies," he said. "The policies could really help to improve patient outcomes and outcomes for workers.”

By policies, he means new laws that require more nurses per shift. Hospital CEOs have opposed such a move, calling it a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Meanwhile, 20 percent of those working at Illinois hospitals quit every year, according to the survey. Frank Manzo of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute noticed that trend and thought a study could help better illustrate it.

“We saw a lot of turnover for nurses and we wanted to look at: ‘is there a nursing shortage, what is the problem that is causing the nursing shortage or what are the causes of it, and how could that be addressed?'" he said.

State lawmakers considered a few bills last session that would have put new staffing minimums in place, but never voted on them. House Bill 2604 and Senate Bill 1908 remain stuck in legislative process committees.

Sam is a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working out the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.
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