U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced legislation on May 13, 2009, to help ease the nursing shortage. “We cannot guarantee high-quality care to every American without a high-quality workforce of nurses to provide it,” said Boxer. “That is why I am so proud to introduce legislation to help address our nationwide shortage of nurses. By investing in our nurses, we can help improve the quality of care in our nation’s hospitals and save lives of countless patients.”
The legislation known as the National Nursing Reform and Patient Advocacy Act (S1031), would amend the Public Health Services Act to protect the rights of nurses to advocate for patients. It would set minimum registered nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals and it would invest funds for training new nurses and nurse educators.
The bill (S1031) has been read and sent to the Committee on Health, Education, Lab and Pensions for review and sponsorship. Nurses should contact their legislators to help sponsor this bill and push the legislation through Congress.
This legislation “builds on the success of California’s historic law that set Registered nurse-to-patient ratios.” When passed, this bill will extend those ratios to all acute and long term care hospitals across the U.S.
The specifics of the bill include provisions to improve work conditions for nurses by:
- Establishing nurse-to-patient ratios to improve the quality of care and save lives. By doing so it is hoped that more nurses will enter and stay in the workforce.
- Providing whistleblower protections for nurses to advocate for patients and report violations of minimal standards of care.
- Creating a standard of care regarding lifting patients to help protect nurses from on-the-job injuries as well as promote better quality of care.
The bill also addresses funding for workforce development by creating a Registered Nurse Workforce Initiative within the Health Resources and Services Administration that would invest in the education of both nurses and nurse educators by providing grants for:
- Nursing nursing educational assistance and living stipends for nursing students who agree to work for safety-net health care providers for a minimum of 3 years.
- Graduate education assistance for RNs who commit to work as nurse educators at an accredited nursing school for a minimum of 5 years.
- Training and mentorship demonstration projects.
As nurses, we know better than anyone that we are the backbone of the health care system and any health care reform must include provisions for meeting the challenges of the critical nursing shortage by improving working conditions for nurses as well as helping to grow the numbers of nurse educators so that more qualified students can enroll in nursing programs each year and become nurses.
©2009 by UltimateNurse.com. By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and the owner/author of TheNursingSite.com