Hospital staffing levels and nurse-patient ratios are more complicated than I thought. Right now, all the people in health care are saying, "well, duh!" But I write for the rest of us. (And can I say that this is what I love, love, love about my job? The exposure to interesting ideas!) About a week ago, I was covering a City Hall rally held by the healthcare professionals on strike at Temple University. It was a beautiful day and I was sort of avoiding going back to the office by doing more "reporting."
Anyway, I was chatting with Patricia Eakin, the head of the union, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, and she explained how complicated these staffing issues can be. I know you are now thinking that of course she would say this because she leads a union that's on strike. But this conversation didn't have that feel to it -- it was more about the kinds of issues nurses routinely face at hospitals.
Eakin works in the emergency room at Temple. Part of the emergency room area is devoted to critical care. These are the real serious cases that come in. I'm not sure precisely how critical care relates to the trauma area, but it is certainly not the part of the ER where people come with sprained ankles or flu symptoms. If someone ends up in the ER's critical care area, they are in the hospital because they need medical help badly.
She said that Temple is considering allowing the use of propofol, the same intense sedative implicated in Michael Jackson's death, in the emergency room's critical care areas. And, she said, it worries the ER nurses.