Safe staffing measures introduced

Proposed legislation gives nurses support to improve patient care and safety.

DURING NATIONAL NURSES WEEK this May (6-12), members from AFT Nurses and Health Professionals traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby for federal staffing legislation that would improve the quality of care and patient safety.

The National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act was introduced by U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in the Senate along with U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who introduced the Nurse Staffing Standards for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act in the House of Representatives. 

Both measures establish a baseline for staffing in the form of nurse-to-patient ratios, protect the rights of nurses to speak up on behalf of their patients and invest in ways to address the nationwide shortage of nurses.

AFT President Randi Weingarten noted that although studies have shown “when nurses can spend enough time with each patient, patient outcomes improve,” but without a law that calls for minimum staffing levels, “nurses’ patient load is often excessive, and quality care is compromised.”  

Weingarten applauded the lawmakers for “standing up for quality patient care,” noting that the AFT “will work to help ensure that these bills pass” so that all patients receive the attention and care they need.

What’s in the bills?

Specifically, the legislation would: 

  • Improve staffing standards by establishing minimum nurse-to-patient ratios and staffing plans developed with the input of direct care staff;
  • Establish patient safety protections that include requiring hospitals to measure acuity and skill mix of nurses in making staffing decisions, as well as prohibiting the use of mandatory overtime to meet required staffing minimums; 
  • Offer transparency by requiring staffing plans to be made available to the public, and whistleblower protections that prohibit retaliation against nurses who report a hospital for failure to comply with minimum ratios; and
  • Invest in programs to better prepare nurses for work in a hospital setting.
Healthwire, Summer 2015 Download PDF (976.21 KB)
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