New Legislation Would Give Nurses Strong Voice in Staffing Decisions

Nurse Leader Insider, May 30, 2013

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Many nurses feel like they don’t have a voice in major decisions in their hospitals, but newly introduced legislation is looking to change that. The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act of 2013, which was introduced by Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) and cosponsored by Representative David Joyce (R-OH), aims to improve the voice of nurses in hospital staffing decisions.

The Safe Staffing Act would require Medicare participating hospitals to create staffing committees comprised of a majority of staff nurses. The committees would be charged with developing unit-specific nurse staffing plans that take into account numerous factors to ensure high-quality care focused on the medical needs of the patient. At least 55% of the committee members must be direct care nurses.

In establishing their plans, the staffing committee must consider the level of education, training, and experience of the registered nurses providing care and the staffing levels recommended by specialty nursing organizations. Further, the plans must establish upwardly adjustable minimum ratios of registered nurses to patients for each unit and be based upon patient numbers and the variable intensity of care needed.

The Emergency Nurses Association and American Nurses Association recently announced their support for the legislation.

"Research has clearly shown that patient care is substantially improved when we have the appropriate nurse staffing levels," Emergency Nurses Association President JoAnn Lazarus said in a statement. "This legislation develops a well-thought out procedure for determining what those staffing levels should be, thereby improving the standard of care for all patients including those in the emergency departments.”

ANA President Karen A. Daley, PhD, RN, FAAN, echoed that support.

“Nurse staffing has a direct impact on patient safety. We know that when there are appropriate nurse staffing levels, patient outcomes improve. Determining the appropriate number and mix of nursing staff is critical to the delivery of quality patient care,” Daley said in a statement. “Federal legislation is necessary to increase protections for patients and ensure fair working conditions for nurses.”

Read the proposed legislation here and help support it here.

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