Sat, May 13, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Nurses appeal for better conditions

CARE OVERLOAD A recent survey indicates that more than two-thirds of the nation's nurses feel they are forced to look after too many patients

By Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A group of senior nurses from across the nation are praised during a special ceremony celebrating International Nurses Day at Taichung Veterans General Hospital yesterday. A billboard featuring nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale is also placed on the stage as a symbol of the true spirit of nurses.

PHOTO: LIAO YAO-TUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

On International Nurses Day yesterday, nurses rights groups appealed for improvements in working conditions.

Among the practices they are unhappy about include being expected to take care of more than ten patients at a time and working over the regulation eight hours per day.

On a day intended to honor nurses around the world, held to coincide with the birthday of nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, Son Yu-lian (孫友聯), secretary-general of the Taiwan Labour Front, said that nurses' rights in Taiwan were being severely violated.

Jane Lu (盧孳艷), director of the Taiwan Nurses Rights Protection Association, said that in a survey recently conducted by the association, 563 out of 744 nurses felt that they were taking care of too many patients.

There is no law that stipulates the maximum number of patients a nurse can take care of during one shift, Lu said.

According to Lu, in California, the law stipulates that a nurse should look after no more than five patients. In Taiwan however, a nurse may be responsible for 10 patients in one shift and up to 14 during a night shift, she added.

A nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that she felt stressed when having to take care of so many patients and that just taking the blood pressure of 10 patients can take up to two hours.

"I really am worried about the patients," the nurse said. "I cannot take good care of all of them because there are too many and I work ten to twelve hour days. When nurses are too tired, it is dangerous for the patients, because we may be prone to making mistakes," she said.

Lu also said that nurses were never paid for working overtime and 545 of the nurses polled responded that they had no time to take advanced nursing courses because of their long working hours.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英), who headed the conference, said that when the Department of Health makes annual evaluations of hospitals, there always seems to be enough nurses at the time, but once inspections are over, the number of nurses drop once more.

To prevent hospitals from hiring nurses just for yearly evaluations, the department should make unannounced inspections, Huang said.

Huang added that since most nurses were women, hospitals may expect them to make more sacrifices such as working overtime.

Lu said the health department established the Bureau of Nursing and Health Services Development last year after complaints from nurses. However, the bureau handles affairs other than nursing so not many changes have been implemented, Lu said.

An unnamed bureau official said surveys regarding nurse-patient ratios have recently been conducted, but since the bureau is new and handles other health affairs, there is still room for improvement.

"All the nurses want is a better, safer working environment," Lu said. "After all, those who take care of us need to be taken care of as well."

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