U.S. Representative Lois Capps Introduces Safe Staffing for Nurses Legislation

Earlier this year, U.S. Representative Lois Capps (D-CA), a nurse, introduced bi-partisan legislation allowing nurses to have a safer work environment. Congresswoman Capps, along with U.S. Representative David Joyce (R-OH), introduced the “Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act of 2013,” HR 1821. The bill is currently in discussion with the Committee on Energy and Commerce and is also being read at the Committee on Ways and Means. 

The primary goal of the bill is to provide for patient protection by establishing safe nurse staffing levels at certain Medicare providers. The bill enumerates many well known facts about workplace safety for nurses, patients, and hospitals. Some include

  • Research shows that patient safety in hospitals is directly proportionate to the number of RNs working in the hospital. Higher staffing levels by experienced RNs are related to lower rates of negative patient outcomes.
  • A 2011 study on nurse staffing and inpatient hospital mortality shows that sub-optimal nurse staffing is linked with a greater likelihood of patient death in the hospital. A 2012 study of serious patient events reported to the Joint Commission demonstrates that one of the leading causes of all hospital sentinel events is human factors, including staffing and staffing skill mix.
  • Healthcare worker fatigue has been identified as a major patient safety hazard, and appropriate staffing policies and practices are indicated as an effective strategy to reduce healthcare worker fatigue and to protect patients. A national survey of RNs found that 74% experience acute or chronic effects of stress and overwork.
  • A 2012 study of Pennsylvania hospitals shows that by reducing nurse burnout, which is attributed in part to poor nurse staffing, those hospitals could prevent an estimated 4,160 infections with an associated savings of $41,000,000. That study also found that for each additional patient assigned to an RN for care, there is an incidence of roughly one additional catheter-acquired urinary tract infection per 1,000 patients, or 1,351 infections per year, costing those hospitals as much as $1,100,000 annually.
  • When hospitals employ insufficient numbers of nursing staff, RNs are being required to perform professional services under conditions that do not support quality health care or a healthful work environment for RNs.

The bill also establishes certain levels of safety for nurse staffing at Medicare participating hospitals. Each participating hospital shall implement a hospital-wide staffing plan for nursing services furnished in the hospital, through which a nursing staff committee will help develop. 

The inclusive committee will “conduct regular, ongoing monitoring of the implementation of the hospital-wide staffing plan for nursing services furnished in the hospital; carry out evaluations of the hospital-wide staffing plan for nursing services at least annually; and make such modifications to the hospital-wide staffing plan for nursing services as may be appropriate.”

There is yet to be a companion bill in the U.S. Senate, but as the bill moves forward, ONS will keep its members apprised of the legislation.

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About Heather Swift

Heather “Swifty” Swift has been Kicking mAss since 1998. At 28 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer as a recently single mom with two small babies on her hip. After completing treatment with the thought that cancer was in her rear view mirror she worked, locally, as a volunteer for Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance doing community outreach to be certain that no one faced cancer alone. In 2005, she had a secondary diagnosis of breast cancer and tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation, which only amped up her commitment to creating positive change and to becoming a strong and effective advocate for the young adult cancer community. Now, at age 42, Swifty, her partner, Brian, and her two teenage children work together locally, nationally and internationally to advocate for change. Swifty regularly meets with legislators to work towards tangible change in health care, legislation that addresses the needs of cancer patients, care-partners, and families. She works directly with clinicians, medical/nursing students, youth & college students, cancer support organizations and others to educate them about the special needs of young adults living with a cancer diagnosis. Swifty is passionate about providing support by connecting people living with cancer to resources, to other cancer survivors, and to mobilizing and training individuals and groups to find their inner advocate. Swifty currently works with a number of amazing, hand-selected organizations, which provide her with opportunities to educate, to advocate, and to change the conversation about cancer and to work to bring an end to the disease. A few include: LiveSTRONG, mAss Kickers, Imerman Angels, National Breast Cancer Coalition, Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, Dusty Showers & The Second Basemen, and Stupid Cancer. Swifty is an oncology nursing student in upstate New York, loves time with her family, paddling sports, and peanut butter. She is a Virgo, but not the really anal-retentive type. Her strange fascination with superheroes makes her popular in geek circles, but it can be endearing. Swifty will be riding a llama across Oregon in July of 2012 and really does believe we can achieve and end to cancer and in world peace. Motto: Never Give Up! Favorite quote: “Our own life has to be our message.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

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