Nurses across the US as being encouraged to support the two bills for safe nurse staffing currently under consideration at the federal level. Various organizations are calling on all nurses to make their voice heard and are suggesting a number of actions that nurses can take.
Due to the tightening of healthcare budgets and the ever-increasing numbers and acuity of patients in the system, nurse-to-patient ratios have been steadily declining in facilities across the country. Numerous research studies have confirmed that safe staffing saves lives – safe nurse to patient ratios improve patient satisfaction and outcomes, reduce morbidity and mortality as well as medical errors. A review of evidence-based research findings on safe staffing has been published by the American Nurses Association.
Understaffing is also contributing to the shortage of nurses. The continuous pressure that nurses are under at work is affecting recruitment and retention of staff – one in five new nurses leave the profession within their first year. Mandated safe nurse to patient ratios appears to be the only way to address these problems in a world where profits have become more important than people.
“The continuous pressure that nurses are under at work is affecting recruitment and retention of staff – one in five new nurses leave the profession within their first year.”
The two bills, introduced in 2017, and likely to be considered again this year, are:
- The Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act (S.1063) which was introduced to the Senate by Senator S. Brown and is currently before to the committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
- The Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act (H.R.2392) introduced to the House of Representatives by J. Schakowksy and now being considered by the Subcommittee on Health.
Both these bills seek the introduction of minimum registered nurse to patient ratios in acute care facilities in the interests of patient safety. They also provide for empowering nurses, through obligations and rights, to act as patient advocates without fear of repercussions.
The bills are modeled on the California law on nurse-to-patient ratios which came into effect in 2004 after 13 years of extensive activism and lobbying by nurses in the face of intense opposition by the hospital industry. It is still the only state to have mandated ratios despite the profession’s hopes that other US states would follow their lead. Watch the video below to learn more about the California struggle and the current views of nurses in the state on the benefits of ratios.
What can you do to add your voice to mandated safe nurse staffing ratios?
Nurse.org has published a Safe Staffing Action Kit with suggestions with guidelines of actions that every nurse can take, such as getting informed about the issues, gathering evidence of real-life experiences in your working situation, starting and signing petitions and urging your local legislator to become a co-sponsor of the bill. At National Nurses United, you can Join their Patient Advocacy Coalition and also follow a link to send a message directly to the US legislative action center in support of either of the two bills.
You can also join the #NursesTakeDC movement, supported by various nursing organizations, including Show Me Your Stethoscope (SYMS). You can join the rally in Washington on April 25 and 26, 2018 to let the American government and the public know that unsafe nurse staffing cost lives. If you can’t make it, at least sign the petition on their website, follow them on Facebook and share the page with your nursing colleagues everywhere.