Volumne 12, Issue No. 1
February 4, 2014

The RN Safe Staffing Act and What It Means For You

As states continue to address nurse staffing through state legislation, with many instances of success, it still remains unlikely that every state will address safe staffing in a similar way. That’s why ANA continues to advocate for Federal legislation which if enacted, would extend the protection of safe nurse staffing to all states. 

In the current 112th Congress, ANA-supported Safe Staffing legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate. The Senate and House sponsors, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) respectively, introduced the Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act (H.R. 876/S. 58), which would hold hospitals accountable for the development of valid, reliable unit-by-unit nurse staffing plans. These plans would be developed in coordination with direct care registered nurses (RNs) and based on each unit’s unique characteristics and needs. ANA continues to educate members of Congress and build support for this important legislation.

Insufficient nurse staffing is still among the top concerns for nurses today. Accordingly, securing appropriate staffing to protect nurses and patients remains a lead priority for ANA. The RN Safe Staffing Act recognizes nurses as professionals and requires that they play an integral part of staffing plan development and decision-making by giving them a say in the care that they provide. Whether safe nurse staffing is regulated at the state or federal level, legislation is useless if compliance is not assured. Oversight of staffing plan implementation and penalties for failure to comply are necessary elements of nurse staffing initiatives.

So what would the Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act do? It would require Medicare participating hospitals, through a committee comprised of at least 55% direct care nurses or their representatives, to establish and publicly report unity-by-unit staffing plans. 

Moreover, these plans must: 

  • establish adjustable minimum numbers of RNs.
  • include input from direct care RNs or their exclusive representatives.
  • be based upon patient numbers and the variable intensity of patient care needed.
  • take into account the level of education, training and experience of the RNs providing care.
  • take into account the staffing levels and services provided by other health care personnel associated with nursing care.
  • consider staffing levels recommended by specialty nursing organizations.
  • take into account unit and facility level staffing, quality and patient outcome data and national comparisons as available.
  • take into account other factors impacting the delivery of care, including unit geography and available technology.
  • ensure that RNs are not forced to work in units where they are not trained or experienced.

ANA continues to garner support for this legislation. With your help we can increase co-sponsorship of this legislation.

 Jerome Mayer

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