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I was disheartened to read the Sept. 10 News headline, "Nursing errors being blamed for deaths, injuries in hospitals." Having worked with nursing students over the past decade, I know many nurses who are dedicated professionals with sophisticated skills and rich clinical expertise.

Unfortunately for all of us who may be in-patients someday, many of these nurses are leaving hospitals to find alternative work settings or different careers.

As the article noted, the hospital downsizing of registered professional nursing staff and the extensive use of poorly trained assistive personnel create a climate where nurses have little or no control over essential resources. Good nurses are too often scrambling to meet the needs of increasingly ill patients with no end in sight.< Understandably, these nurses are doing whatever they can to leave environments that pay little heed to their voices of concern for safe patient care.

I have been hearing about this dismal situation with hospital care for many years now. I was prompted to write today because of the headline on that article, which implies that nurses are making more errors. Of course, errors will occur more when part-time staff are used, when nurses are forced to work mandatory overtime and when untrained people are taking on more direct patient-care roles.

The article itself points to these factors and others that significantly contribute to errors. Why not use a headline such as "Downsizing of registered nursing staff contributes to more errors and patient deaths"? This would have been more faithful to the content of the article and to the situation.

The sad reality is that nurses on the front lines continue to have little voice in the very health care systems that ask them to provide quality care. Until we all, as health care consumers, demand that our hospitals are adequately and appropriately staffed, we can expect errors to continue and increase. Systems, not nurses, are causing these problems.


D.N.S., R.N.


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