HEALTH

Social Media Influencer Leads Drive For Safer Nurse Staffing At Hospitals

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Lisa Schencker
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Lisa Schencker reports, Florida nurse Blake Lynch, better known as “Nurse Blake” on social media, has been working with Change.org in an effort to require hospitals to adhere to “safe staffing ratios” as a condition of accreditation.

Chicago

A social media influencer is galvanizing nurses across the country to petition an Illinois-based organization for safer staffing at hospitals and other health care settings — a campaign that, this week, has included a rally, commercials on local TV and a mobile billboard traveling to Chicago-area hospitals.

Florida nurse Blake Lynch, better known as “Nurse Blake” on social media, has been working with Change.org and a Virginia- and New York City-based advocacy group called Impact in Healthcare, on the effort to ask the Joint Commission to require “safe staffing ratios” as a condition of accreditation. The nonprofit Joint Commission accredits and certifies health care organizations across the country if they meet an array of requirements.

Lynch, who is known for posting funny videos about nursing on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook, started a petition on Change.org about the issue that, so far, has more than 540,000 signatures, making it the largest health care petition on the platform this year, said Michael Jones, a managing director at Change.org.

Change.org and Impact have been working with Lynch to run commercials on local TV stations, in recent days, on the topic and they’ve been sending a mobile, electronic billboard to major Chicago-area hospitals including Stroger, University of Illinois Hospital, Northwestern Memorial and Rush University Medical Center, among others. They also held a rally Tuesday outside the Joint Commission’s headquarters that drew several dozen people, after delivering the petition to the organization.

In addition to asking the Joint Commission to require safe staffing, Lynch and Impact want the Joint Commission to develop a task force of health care providers to determine appropriate staffing ratios across different settings and disciplines, annually report hospitals’ compliance with certain staffing ratios and develop peer-reviewed research on staffing ratios, among other things.

Dr. Jonathan Perlin, Joint Commission president and CEO, said in a statement Tuesday that the COVID-19 pandemic brought additional attention to the need for more trained health care workers and the need to focus on their health and well-being.

But, he said, “Staffing is a complex issue that is larger than, and cannot be resolved by, The Joint Commission alone.

“We look forward to working with other authorities on this issue. The context of Tuesday’s events is not one that is conducive to the meaningful dialogue required. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all or immediate solution. Addressing the root causes of the staffing shortage is the only way to create long-term and sustainable improvement.”

Hospitals and medical organizations across the country are now facing staffing shortages, partly because of burnout among workers from the pandemic.

Safe staffing at hospitals has long been a key issue for nurses unions, which cited it as a main reason for strikes in recent years at Stroger, Community First Medical Center, University of Illinois Hospital and University of Chicago Medical Center. Often the nurses want hospitals to meet ratios for the numbers of patients allowed per nurse. Some hospitals have countered that they staff based on patient acuity, meaning they aim to align patients’ needs with nurses’ skills.

Illinois law requires hospitals to staff based on acuity, and to have committees of nurses who make recommendations for hospitals’ staffing plans. California has a law requiring that hospitals meet certain ratios.

Lynch and Impact said they didn’t organize the overall Joint Commission campaign with the unions. The Illinois Nurses Association, however, encouraged its members to participate in the rally Tuesday and helped lead it.

“It’s not fair to the patients. It’s not fair to the nurses,” said rally attendee Debreshia Anderson, an emergency department nurse at University of Illinois Hospital who is with the Illinois Nurses Association, of staffing woes.

Nurse Ashley Bryant, who also attended the rally Tuesday, said she nearly left the profession during her first nursing job in 2020 at a long-term care facility, when she routinely was asked to care for 25 patients herself.

“There was no help. It was completely overwhelming,” said Bryant, who has since moved on to a new job at Northwestern Medicine’s Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton, where she says she no longer has that problem.

When it comes to safe staffing, the Joint Commission should take the lead as a hospital accrediting body, Lynch said.

“They want to talk about a nursing shortage but, unfortunately, that’s because nurses are really at their wits’ end in the profession, they’re just leaving,” Lynch said. “It’s dangerous. All we’re asking is that they help look into safe staffing with us and make it a priority, their No. 1 priority.”

Blake, who said he worked at hospitals across the country, said he started feeling burned out as a nurse about four years ago and considered leaving the profession. He started his Nurse Blake Facebook page around that time, partly as an outlet.

In addition to posting on social media about safe staffing, Lynch also makes satirical videos, such as one in which he pretends to be a nurse manager asking a nurse about their weekend and another in which he poses as a hospital executive giving an underwhelming thank you speech to health care workers at his hospital. In other videos, he criticizes the Joint Commission.

Lynch now has about 1.6 million followers on Facebook, has done a comedy tour and owns a company that offers continuing education for nurses.

“Safe staffing, it’s not going to change overnight. It’s not going to be fixed tomorrow, but if we don’t start talking about it now, it’s never going to be changed.”

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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