There are way too many arguments out there to deal with them all. But let me just make two points:
1. I read a letter to the editor of the Globe recently that said that if nurses just had fewer forms to fill out, there would be plenty of time to deal with however many patients they have.
This kind of argument comes up frequently. While I am not in the medical profession, I believe it is very likely that every one of those forms was introduced because someone died unnecessarily. And the same holds for building codes, gas line standards, and all sorts of other “burdensome government regulations”.
And when a bridge collapses, and people die, the governor and a great number of legislators wake up from their slumber and decide that maybe it’s time to stop cutting infrastructure maintenance and maybe put a bit more money back into it.
But when nursing staff is cut, it’s impossible to tell who died because of it, or whose life was shortened, or degraded. The nurses tend to know, though, and we should believe them.
When my wife was suffering from cancer, she spent a lot of time in Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. This is a hospital that as a matter of fact has a good nurse-to-patient ratio, and that was evident to me, as it again was a bit later when I had back surgery in the same hospital.
I spoke to one of the nurses there. She was at the beginning of her career — it was her second job. Her first job had been in a small hospital in a nearby state, which was grossly understaffed. She said that she spent her whole time performing what she called “nursing tasks” — e.g., handing out pills — but no real nursing.
I know that the nursing care my wife received — while it didn’t save her life — contributed vastly to her well-being and made her last year humane. That to me is priceless.
2. The hospital administrators (and yes, some of them have R.N. degrees) have claimed that studies done in California (which passed a similar resolution some time ago) showed that there was no real positive effect due to hiring more nurses.
On the other hand, I have read that nurses in California believe that they can do their jobs much more effectively now that they are not massively overworked.
Again, while I am not in the medical profession, this does remind me of my years as a public school teacher. The classes were generally larger than they should be, and after Prop. 2 1/2, they were much larger than they should be, because 25% of the teachers had been laid off. Our local union (and virtually every other local union, for that matter) always raised this issue. Every teacher — and probably virtually every parent — knew that lower class sizes would make a material difference in how well we could reach our students.
But administrators (and yes, they all held teaching certificates) loved to tell us — and they told us this again and again, over many years — that studies had been done that showed that class size made absolutely no difference in student performance.
There were in fact such studies. They turned out to be flawed to the point of being useless. When new studies were eventually performed, which for the first time took into account parent income, it became obvious that class size was a powerful determiner of student performance.
Now at that point, you might wonder how many of those administrators told us, “Oops — I was wrong. Sorry about that.” Well, there were exactly none who did that. They just stopped talking about it. Like it had never happened.
I think if 86% of the nurses in this state believe that better staffing levels would enable them to do their jobs — which are crucially important jobs — better, then we would do well to listen to them.
And that’s why I voted yes on Question 1.