The ANA, the nation’s largest nursing organization, is leading a campaign called Safe Staffing Saves Lives, which aims to implement legislation that establishes better hospital staffing standards. According to the ANA, due to budget cuts and hospital closings, inadequate nurse staffing is a widespread occurrence across the country, and as a result, the ANA is encouraging nurses to advocate for safe staffing by informing legislators, health care administrators, and the public that the current trend in staffing is unacceptable and dangerous.
The New York State Nurses Association, NYSNA, has taken the lead in actively advocating for safe staffing. Representing 37,000 members, New York’s largest professional association and union for registered nurses is led by Jill Furillo. On May 21, under Furillo’s direction 1500+ NYSNA nurses went to Albany to lobby for lawmakers to pass two bills, one of them being the Safe Staffing Act. Additionally, the NYSNA has responded to the increasing layoffs of hospital workers by renegotiating labor contracts and supporting union-friendly legislation.
Research provided by the ANA highlights the correlation between quality of patient care and number of nurses. Their research shows that patients with post-surgical complications are up to 10% more likely to die in hospitals with low nurse staffing. Increasing nurse staffing, on the other hand, has proven to lower mortality rates across the board. As a result, the ANA finds the need for more nurses is undeniable given the number of patients nurses are currently caring for.
The passing of the legislation as it is currently written, will require hospitals and nursing homes to spend an additional $2 billion to $3 billion annually, and require them to hire 20,000 additional nurses statewide, but it also has its benefits. There is proof that a sufficient number of registered nurses on a patient care unit is beneficial to patients. Safe staffing:
- Is effective in reducing lengths of stay
- Results in improved hospital satisfaction ratings by patients
- Has reduced hospital-acquired infections
- Improves nurse satisfaction, which reduces nurse turnover
With these overwhelming benefits, the ANA says it is vital that nurse staffing be appropriated based on patient need. The ANA is lobbying for The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act of 2011 to be adopted nationwide. The act accounts for factors such as acuity of patients, level of experience of nursing staff, layout of the unit, and level of ancillary support in determining the appropriate nurse-patient ratio for any one unit. The act has already been implemented in seven states, and if The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act is approved nationwide, Medicare-participating hospitals will be held accountable for implementing and developing reliable nurse staffing plans based on the unique needs of each unit. Committees comprised of at least 55% direct care nurses in each hospital will be in charge of developing these plans. The act would protect nurses who file a complaint regarding staffing, impose civil monetary penalties for violations, and ensure that nurses do not work in units where they are not trained or experienced.
As the push for safe staffing laws increases, change will be felt across the Healthcare industry, in onboarding efforts, HR programs, and training programs. The cost of these new hires may seem pricey at first, but the benefit will be far-reaching regarding quality patient care and nursing conditions.