Nurse-backed Safe Staffing Bill introduced in Congress

After years of advocating by nurses, the Safe Staffing Bill has been introduced in Congress. If passed, it would set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios for hospitals across the country.

Authored by Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, the bill’s minimum nurse-to-patient rations would, supporters argue, improve patient safety, as well as working conditions for nurses — perhaps even encouraging nurses who have left the profession to return.

“Hospital executives claim there is a nursing ‘shortage,’ but we know that many nurses have left the bedside because they are unwilling to risk their patients’ lives by being forced to care for them in an unsafe manner,” said Deborah Burger, RN, president of National Nurses United, in an interview with Scrubs Magazine.

According to National Nurses United, more than a million nurses with active RN licenses are currently not working in nursing because of hazardous conditions.

“For years, I’ve talked to exhausted nurses who have said they go home at night, wondering if they forgot to turn a patient because they were stretched far too thin,” noted Congresswoman Schakowsky.

According to Schakowsky, the bill will:

  • Improve the health of patients by improving nursing care
  • Establishing minimum registered nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals
  • Providing whistleblower protection for nurses who advocate on behalf of their patients
  • Investing in training and career development to retain hard-working nurses in the workforce

Studies have shown that overworking nurses can lead to dangerous working conditions, errors in medication, higher risk of spreading illnesses, failure to tend to hospital care compliance and more.

“The bill’s introduction is a direct response to the escalating staffing crisis in hospitals across the country. Tens of thousands of nurses have spoken out, marched, and struck for safer patient care conditions over the last year, sounding a clarion call for action,” said Burger.

The bill is modeled after the California nurse-patient ratio law, established in 2004, that sets strict limits for how many patients each type of nurse can be assigned to.

“It is past time that we act on the evidence and give nurses the support they deserve and put patients over profits. Let’s get it done!” added Schakowsky.