Sunday August 31st 2014

Staffing bill introduced in U.S. Senate

A federal lawmaker introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate on May 16 that empowers RNs to drive staffing decisions in hospitals, protect patients and improve the quality of care.

Crafted with input from the American Nurses Association (ANA), the Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act of 2014 (S. 2353) is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). ANA supports a companion staffing bill introduced in the House in May 2013, the Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act of 2013 (H.R. 1821).

“It is encouraging that members of both chambers of Congress understand the connection between nurse staffing and patient safety,” said ANA President Karen A. Daley, PhD, RN, FAAN. “There is no room for debate. When there are appropriate nurse staffing levels, lives are saved and patient outcomes improve.”

Said Merkley, “As the husband of a nurse, I know firsthand the many challenges nurses face and how critical their care is to patients. Safe staffing that enhances patient care, reduces medical errors and bolsters nurse retention all at the same time would be a tremendous improvement to health care delivery.”

The bill would require hospitals to establish committees that would create unit-by-unit nurse staffing plans based on multiple factors, such as the severity of the patients’ conditions and experience and skill level of the RNs.

“I’m so pleased to see Sen. Merkley standing up for patients in hospitals across the country,” said Susan King, MS, RN, CEN, FAAN, executive director of the Oregon Nurses Association.  “Nurses bring an intimate understanding of patient needs to the discussion about how to most appropriately staff a facility.”

Among other provisions, the bill would require hospitals participating in Medicare to publicly report nurse staffing plans for each unit, place limits on floating nurses, and hold hospitals accountable for safe nurse staffing through specific mechanisms.

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