CT Nurses United rally on the south lawn Credit: Christine Stuart photo

Nurses from hospitals across Connecticut propped a tent on the state Capitol lawn to draw attention to nursing shortages at hospitals and acute care settings across the state. 

They were hoping to catch lawmakers attention as they convened for the opening day of the legislative session. 

The nurses are passionate about their jobs, but they said something needs to change because it’s becoming unsafe for patient care. 

“We’re here because we’re scared for our family to go into the hospital because we work there and we see how distressed the conditions are,” Paul, who declined to give his last name for fear of retribution, said. 

In California, they mandated a staff to patient ratio based on what floor a nurse works on and the grassroots group which formed on Instagram is aiming for similar legislation in Connecticut. 

The Connecticut Hospital Association said the pandemic has strained the workforce, but staffing-to-patient ratios are not the solution.

“Working together, we need to expand this critical workforce to meet current and future patient needs. Nurse staffing ratios are not the answer to this dilemma,” the association said in a statement. “In fact, they would exacerbate the problem, causing delays in care and raising costs with corporate nurse staffing agencies as the likely beneficiaries. Instead, hospitals and health systems are working with partners at the state, in education, and across healthcare to educate, train, and retain more nurses and other healthcare professionals in Connecticut. This, rather than ratios, is the right approach to support the healthcare workforce, protect patient access to care, and ensure a robust healthcare delivery system in our state.”

The CT Nurses United group, which met through social media, is just beginning to organize its effort. 

CT Nurses United rally outside the state Capitol Credit: Christine Stuart photo

They say the nursing shortage started well before the pandemic and the last five to 10 years it’s increasingly gotten worse. According to the group there are 89,344 licensed nurses in Connecticut, but only 44,086 are actively practicing

“This is a corporate model of health care to reduce staffing costs at all costs,” Paul, who declined to give his last name for fear of retribution, said. “Patients aren’t getting the care that they need.” 

He said hospitals are incentivized to short-staff nurses because it saves them money. 

The nurses say it’s gotten to the point where they just can’t take care of the patients. 

“It doesn’t matter how good you are at prioritizing your tasks,” Tyrne Wade-Thomas said. “There’s always going to be something you can’t do.” 

She said that’s why a lot of people are leaving nursing, “it’s just too hard.” 

An ICU nurse, Sara Hays, said she’s supposed to have one to two patients per nurse and for the last month she’s had no less than three patients. 

Patients are sicker and there’s a lot more details to focus upon. 

“We are aiming for nurse to patient ratios,” Krystal Myers said. 

She said they have at least two lawmakers willing to sponsor legislation.