Republican lawmakers are presiding over the closure of rural and other hospitals from coast to coast by starving them of funds while nurses and the nation’s labor movement, with the support of progressive Democrats in the Senate and House, make rather push for more staff to provide good health care to more people.
Citing nursing shortages exacerbated by the burnout caused by the coronavirus, National Nurses United and several labor and congressional allies have relaunched their legislation mandating national standards for staff safety in medical facilities.
The safe staffing measure, by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., a strong supporter of NNU and its goals, faces an uncertain future in the Republican-led U.S. House. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is the primary sponsor. Other union supporters include teachers (AFT), AFSCME and AFL-CIO.
Safe staffing is a longstanding cause of NNU, the leading national union for registered nurses. Her absence from local hospitals has led to a wave of information pickets, nurses’ day-long walkouts and other moves to draw public attention to the threat a nursing shortage poses. on patients.
Inspired by an NNU Safe Staffing Law imposed in its home base of California in 1999, the national bill mandates nurse-to-patient ratios in intensive care units, emergency rooms, intensive care units, cardiac care units and other medical areas where convenient round-the-clock care is a necessity.
Hospitals and insurers strongly oppose safe staffing and have ruled it out at previous congresses. Hospital bosses, many of whom are on seven-figure paychecks, say they must cut staff and can’t meet ratios because health insurers won’t pay — or pay enough — to attract newcomers. bedside nurses. Insurers, seeing staff safety as a threat to their high profits, are also opposed.
“It’s high time we acted on the evidence and gave nurses the support they deserve and put patients before profits,” NNU co-chair Jean Burger, RN, retorted. of the recent Capitol Hill press conference unveiling the legislation, HR2530.
With some safe staffing efforts at the state level stalled and others virtually unreachable in anti-worker Republican-led states, the NNU and its allies are once again looking to Congress. Safe staffing is key to “saving patient lives and stemming the exodus of nurses from the bedside,” says NNU.
Burger refutes hospital and insurer claims that the United States is experiencing a “nursing shortage.” She says these two industries caused it by refusing to pay nurses enough and turning a blind eye to poor working conditions, like back-to-back 12-hour shifts and long compulsory overtime. Burger noted that as a result, one million registered nurses are currently out of the field.
“This staffing crisis was fabricated by the hospital industry,” she said. “Many nurses have left the bedside because they don’t want to risk their patients’ lives by having to care for them in dangerous ways. This bill would return them to providing direct care at the bedside and in clinics by ensuring that their patients receive appropriate, safe, optimal and timely care.
“Numerous studies have shown that safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios translate to better quality care for patients, lower health care costs and a better workplace for nurses,” Schakowsky said. at the Capitol Hill press conference. “For years I have spoken to exhausted nurses who said they came home at night wondering if they had forgotten to turn a patient over because they were way too stretched.
“The need for safe federal staffing standards is about nurses, patients, and everyone’s life,” Schakowsky said. “This bill will improve patient health by improving nursing care – establishing minimum ratios of registered nurses to patients in hospitals, providing whistleblower protection for nurses who advocate for their patients, and investing in training. and career development to retain hard-working nurses in the workforce.
Brown said much the same after meeting AIs in Dayton, Ohio.
“We know that safe staffing levels mean better patient outcomes. But too often, nurses are overstretched, caring for too many patients with insufficient support. Workers are the first line of defense in keeping Ohioans safe. We need to make sure there are enough of these workers on the job,” the senator said.
In a two-month NNU survey of at least 2,800 nurses at the end of 2022, “56.8% of hospital nurses said staffing had gotten slightly or much worse recently”, and half said claimed to have been forced to work excessive overtime.
In the past, NNU has flagged coronavirus as a key cause, as nurses burn out and leave and hospitals increase the number of patients each nurse has to care for, to levels unhealthy for RNs and patients.
Studies report that when there are too few nurses for too many patients, it results in preventable medical errors, preventable complications, nurse falls and injuries, longer hospital stays, readmission rates higher and higher death rates. These trends are especially true, adds NNU, in understaffed hospitals serving communities of color.
“Nurses are leaving hospitals because the staff and working conditions are terrible,” Eric Cromer, RN, said at Brown’s Ohio press conference. “The truth is that the nurses are exhausted. New nurses leave the profession within a few years and older nurses retire earlier. We need to make the profession something people want to be a part of, where it’s not going to cost you your sanity, your physical health, or force you to risk your license. We need secure staff ratios.
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