February 28, 2018

Safe Nurse Staffing for Patient Safety Legislation

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), co-chair of the House Nursing Caucus, announced on Feb. 22, 2018, her support for bipartisan legislation to address the severe shortage of nurses in Hawaii and across the country.The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act (H.R.5052) would direct Medicare-participating hospitals to develop nurse staffing plans that ensure an adequate number of nurses to meet patient needs and improve patient safety. Without adequate registered nurse staffing, patients are at higher risk for prolonged hospital stays, increased infections, avoidable medication errors, falls, injuries and even death.

“Nurses are the driving force of our healthcare system, providing top-notch healthcare while ensuring patient safety and comfort,” said Rep. Gabbard. “Unfortunately, too many hospitals, especially in our rural and underserved communities, face a nursing shortage—putting patient lives and health at risk and driving up hospital costs. Adding nurses to hospital staffing plans would help to dramatically prevent hospital deaths, reduce infections and hospital readmissions, and save hospitals nearly $3 billion. Our bipartisan legislation will support and empower nurses in Hawaii and across the country to deliver quality healthcare for all.”
“RN staffing makes a critical difference for patients and the quality of their care,” said Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, president of the American Nurses Association. “Appropriate nurse staffing keeps patients safe and protects them from preventable complications, even lowering the risk of death. Nursing care is like medication—we would never withhold a medication when we know its lifesaving effects. The Safe Staffing for Nurse and Patient Safety Act empowers direct care nurses to determine the unique and variable needs of their patients to ensure the safety and quality outcomes of care.”

To date, seven states have passed legislation to ensure safe nurse staffing by utilizing a hospital-wide safe staffing committee. Will safe staffing soon be federally mandated?While safe staffing mandates are applauded, they do little to address the nursing shortage found in numerous areas of the United States. State-level data on nursing shortages does not give the full picture. In fact, it is quite common for state-level nurse staffing data to show a surplus, but pockets within that state (especially rural or non-MSA areas) are experiencing moderate to severe shortages.If federal safe staffing mandates pass, what effect will it have on hospitals that are already taking every common approach to attracting and retaining nurses, but are still struggling? Will non-compliant hospitals face fines, law suits, and reduced reimbursements, none of which help the situation?Now is the time for hospitals in these affected areas to look into non-traditional approaches to attract and retain nurses.

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