Pa. nurses are unhappy with understaffing at work

Tammy Christiansen, center, a nurse at Delaware County Memorial Hospital, spoke as nurses, their supporters, and members of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) rallied outside the Delaware County courthouse in Media in June. A nurse in the Delaware County Memorial Hospital had recently been assaulted on the job. (MARGO REED / Staff Photographer)

As the demand for nurses grows, nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvania nurses surveyed on working conditions this summer say they are unsatisfied or highly unsatisfied with their work. Their biggest complaint is poor working conditions due to understaffing.

The survey, conducted by the union, Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), drew responses from 1,000 of 30,000 nurses, both union and nonunion, contacted randomly via the state’s registry of more than 100,000 nurses. Just over half, 55 percent, said that staffing was often or always inadequate and nearly nine in 10 said they have less time for their patients. Nurses caring for critical patients said they were often assigned three patients instead of two, which they say is the industry norm. In less critical areas, nurses reported being assigned eight patients, compared to what they said was the norm of five patients.

Half the nurses said their hospitals do not have adequate measures in place to protect caregivers from violence on the job, the survey said.

In a report with the survey, the union said it is advocating for the state to legislate staffing protocols. “We need elected leaders to stand with us,” said Patty Eakin, a Temple University Hospital nurse and the union president. “This is a public health and safety issue.”