Every month I have the honor of presenting the DAISY Award® for Extraordinary Nurses to a group of amazing caregivers at Maine Medical Center. The nominations we receive from patients and families highlight the compassion and quality of our nurses – those who have helped family members say goodbye to loved ones and held the hands of patients to keep their spirits up. MMC’s nurses do incredible work every day.

We also know that nurses are facing unprecedented challenges as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients are coming to the hospital sicker and staying longer. The workforce shortage has created massive pressure on our care teams. Hospitals are working hard to regain financial footing, as reimbursement has not kept up with the cost of care. Burnout is common, and, as some of Maine Medical Center’s nurses testified to the Legislature recently, nurses are being verbally and physically assaulted on a regular basis.

The problems are clear. Yet, contrary to what some might suggest, no government mandate will magically fix them. Instead, Maine Medical Center is focused on several solutions to help our nurses so they can focus on the work they love.

To start, it is important that caregivers are adequately compensated for the work they do. That is why MaineHealth has invested more than $250 million in pay raises for non-physician, non-executive members of our care team, including our nurses, since 2020.

But while compensation is important, so too is personal well-being. We provide access to free counseling services and have created a wellness committee that offers activities and tips to improve personal well-being.

Important, too, is making sure we are doing all we can to keep our caregivers from being overwhelmed at a time when there is a dire shortage of nurses and other caregivers in our industry. We are actively recruiting nurses, CNAs and other front-line care team members. We continue to pay premium rates for traveling nurses so that we have adequate staffing to meet our patients’ needs.


We are also investing in increased training and security measures to better protect our care team members from violence. And we’ve built up lines of communication with our nurses through daily huddles, a nurse practice council and town hall meetings. We regularly seek input from bedside nurses on important decisions such as staffing levels.

We know there’s more to do, and we will continue to act and advocate.

Maine Medical Center is asking for support from the Legislature on bills that we believe will make a difference. We urge lawmakers to pass L.D. 1119 to hold those who violently assault our care team members accountable. We need to increase the number of nurses joining our profession, and so we strongly support L.D. 1797, a bill that would invest $11 million in health workforce training and education. Finally, we continue to advocate for community behavioral health services to better meet the needs of our patients.

Recently, lawmakers held a hearing on L.D. 1639, a bill that purports to address the challenges faced by our care team by imposing government-mandated nurse-to-patient ratios at Maine hospitals. It may feel like a good idea – who wouldn’t want more nurses? But we already want to hire more nurses. We don’t have more nurses because there aren’t enough nurses. This misguided bill would do nothing to address the well-documented shortage of nurses and will only lead to limited access to care for patients. Hospitals that cannot meet the inflexible ratios will have to close beds and force emergency rooms to go on diversion. This bill would harm our patients, and that is unacceptable.

The pandemic has tested our team in countless ways, but our nurses have delivered. The independent quality evaluator, The Leapfrog Group, has given MMC its highest safety grade, an A, for six consecutive six-month periods. MMC achieved the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Recognition, the gold standard for nursing quality, for the fourth consecutive time in 2022. Every time I hand out a DAISY Award, I hear a story of how high-quality care is delivered with the utmost compassion and respect.

MMC is working hard to create a hospital environment that supports our nursing team. There are several bills in the Legislature that will help, and we urge lawmakers to focus on those rather than government-mandated ratios that will only hurt our patients.

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