Nurses demand higher staff levels

Safe care: the number of health workers makes a difference Keystone

Swiss nurses have called for higher levels of qualified staff to help guarantee a better standard of healthcare across the country.

This content was published on May 12, 2006 - 15:38

The appeal, made by the Swiss Nursing Association, was made to mark International Nurses Day on Friday.

This year the nursing association is focusing on safe staffing – the theme of the international day.

"We want to highlight the link between the number of patients a nurse should look after and the quality of the care," explained Pierre-André Wagner, head of the legal service at the association.

"It seems obvious, but more better-trained nurses equals better healthcare."

The organisation has based this year's campaign on a healthcare study commissioned by the Federal Health Office and carried out by the Institute of Nursing Science at Basel University.

The study into eight hospitals, which is receiving final comments from a Swiss health commission before publication, highlights the difference made by the number of health workers.

"In Switzerland we always need a study to prove something and here we have it," said Wagner.

Quoting the initial results of the study, the nursing association said that when there are not enough nursing staff working at night, patients suffer from a higher number of post-operative complications and falls and that pain relief treatment deteriorates.

Right balance

It added that nursing involved considerable teamwork and that teams need to have the right balance of skilled professionals.

Replacing skilled nurses by less qualified staff is extremely serious, says Wagner.

"Dramatic staff cutbacks are being made everywhere in Switzerland," he added. "We want to show how senseless this really is. Cutbacks result in patient complications and additional costs, not less."

In 2005 the nursing association launched a campaign, still underway, to encourage people to look beyond the costs of nursing care to the actual services provided and the results obtained.

As part of International Nurses Day, the association is urging cantons under financial pressure not to replace nursing staff by cheaper, less qualified personnel. This would be an irresponsible move, endangering patient health, it says.

Swiss nurses will be been taking part in numerous events organized on Friday to celebrate the day. They hope to spread the word by distributing information reminding the public "we are all potential clients of the health system".

swissinfo, Simon Bradley with agencies

In brief

The Swiss Nursing Association represents 26,000 professional nurses – one third of all trained nurses working in Switzerland.

The association seeks to affirm and promote the professional status of nurses, develop the quality of nursing care, support members in their activities and professional development and participate in health decisions.

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Key facts

Safe staffing for nursing staff means that an appropriate number of staff with a suitable mix of skill levels, is available at all times to ensure that patient care needs are met and that hazard-free working conditions are maintained.
In the US, 98,000 people per year die from medical errors occurring in hospitals. Unsafe staffing and heavy workloads are the major contributing factors.

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