New Bill Enables RNs to Determine Hospital Staffing

In a medical setting, those actually caring for patients arguably have the best understanding of how much staff is needed to do it properly. In light of this, a new bill has been introduced to Congress that would allow registered nurses to have a larger role in hospital staffing levels.

Staffing Levels Outcomes

The Registered Nursing Safe Staffing Act of 2013 (H.R. 1821) is a bipartisan bill sponsored by the co-chairs of the House Nursing Caucus. It has the backing of the American Nurses Association (ANA), who claim that higher staffing levels are directly linked to better patient care. Research shows that appropriate staff levels lead to lower rates of patient falls, infections, medical errors, injuries, and death. When negative events occur at a hospital, low staffing rates are usually a contributing factor.

What the Bill Entails

The safe staffing bill would require that hospitals establish committees to create unit-by-unit staffing plans. Their plans would take into account several inputs, including number of patients per unit, experience of the floor nurses, and technological capabilities. It would also require that hospitals that participate in Medicare would have to publically report the nurse staffing plans for each unit, provide whistleblower protection for those who complain about staffing, and place limits on the practice of “floating” nurses.

Implications

If the bill passes and nurses have more say in staffing levels, we might see high demand for more nurses to fill positions. Temporary nurses might become more needed, and therefore staffing companies will also see an uptick in demand for their services. Factors will be busy funding these institutions so that they can grow their operations. Hopefully the ultimate end result of this legislation will be better patient care at hospitals—then everybody wins.

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