Iowa nurses say they’re stretched thin in the state’s healthcare industry. At a hearing Thursday in Des Moines on the nurse shortage, Iowa City nurse Cathy Singer-Glasson spoke up as the Nurse Alliance president for the Service Employees International Union. She says nurses are busier today, patients are sicker when they come into hospitals, and thus take more time and attention, which nurses say they don’t have. “Quality does suffer, unfortunately,” she says, “because of the situation we’re faced with in the state.” Singer-Glasson says wages in Iowa for nurses are among the lowest in the nation. She says she knows of nurses who didn’t come, or came to the hearing but weren’t willing to speak out because they were afraid with their bosses in the room they’d suffer repercussions from speaking out about conditions in their hospitals. “I think that’s a very sad statement to the way things are in this state if nurses can’t protect their patients and speak up on their behalf.” She says overworked nurses burn out and quit, making the shortage worse. And she says while hospitals blame their low pay on low Medicare reimbursement rates, the doctors seem to be doing just fine. She says they’re shifting the blame. Medicare rates are lower for Iowa, she agrees, “but the priorities are just not there for nurses.” She says patients would get better care if the ratio of nurses to patients increased. But hospitals worry lawmakers will try to enforce such ratios, saying it’ll decrease access to healthcare if they can’t meet staffing guidelines. Administrators say no Iowa hospital requires mandatory overtime, and they say expanding nurse training is a better way to cope with the shortage of healthcare professionals.
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