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As vice president of United American Nurses, the union arm of the American Nurses Association, which represents more than 100,000 registered nurses across the country, I wish to report the results of the association's recent survey of registered nurses. Patients and their families may well be alarmed by these findings, and they should be.

We have a very real health care crisis in this country. Patients are at risk in today's hospitals. They are not receiving the care they need because there are not enough registered nurses on staff or on duty to provide safe, quality care. That is unacceptable to United American Nurses.

The survey results show that 75 percent of nurses surveyed believe the quality of nursing care at the facility in which they work has declined over the past two years.

Fifty-six percent believe that the time they have available for patient care has decreased. Forty percent said they would not be comfortable having a friend or family member cared for in the facility where they work.

Also, a significant number have experienced much mandatory overtime, increased workload and pressure to complete that increased workload. Many have skipped meals and missed breaks.

To help revive the quality of patient care, we are demanding that health care facilities provide safe staffing and disclose information about staffing levels, staff mix and patient outcomes to the public. We are also demanding the end of mandatory overtime, which puts nurses and patients at risk of error and injury.

United American Nurses is lobbying for state and federal legislation to back up these demands, along with strong contractual language that will not only protect us, our professional practice, but also our patients. We are asking nurses and communities to sign on to our "Safe Staffing Campaign" petitions to garner support for legislation that will assure quality patient care - not only for nurses, but for the patients we serve.



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