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Michigan Voters Want More Nurses on Job, Poll Says

The majority of voters polled favor requiring minimum hospital staffing for nurses in Michigan.Credit: John O'Neill Herrera/U.S. Navy
The majority of voters polled favor requiring minimum hospital staffing for nurses in Michigan.
Credit: John O'Neill Herrera/U.S. Navy
October 16, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - Nurses work tirelessly to help sick patients, but many people say there are not enough nurses to go around.

In a survey of registered voters released Thursday by the Michigan Nurses Association, 77 percent of the people polled said patient care is suffering in hospitals because nurses are being assigned too many patients per shift. John Armelagos, a registered nurse and president of the association, said chronic overstaffing threatens safety and care.

Armelagos shared the story of a neonatal intensive-care nurse in Detroit who was floated into the adult cardiac intensive-care unit.

"On her night shift, she had 13 patients, several of which were critically, critically ill," he said. "One nurse for 13 patients is so, so out of line in regards to what safety is."

Eight in 10 polled favored passing a law establishing minimum staffing levels of registered nurses in Michigan hospitals. The Safe Patient Care Act would do just that and, for example, assign no more than three patients to energency-room nurses.

State Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, introduced the measure in the House on Thursday, and Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, is expected soon to do the same in the Senate.

The measure would require hospitals to institute a staffing plan for each unit that follows minimum nurse-to-patient ratios based on national professional standards. Armelagos said it also would limit mandatory overtime for nurses to cases of extreme emergency.

"All too often, hospitals run bare-bones staffing," he said, "and one call-in or two may put a somewhat tenuous staffing model at great risk. And so many employers have a staffing model that depends on mandatory overtime."

Some hospital officials have claimed mandated staffing would impact costs and hospital financial viability. California has a law specifying required minimum nurse to patient ratios, and Massachusetts passed a law for specific nurse to patient ratios in intensive-care units.

The survey was conducted by Anderson Robbins Research. More information is online at

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI