Nurses march on DC


On May 12th, 2016, nurses from across the United States met in the nation’s capital to call for safe staffing practices in hospitals, nursing homes and health care facilities. Nurses are on the frontline, and so when nurses from grassroots nursing organizations – not nursing unions – spend their own time and money to travel in support of the pending legislation, lawmakers took notice. The nurses are facing massive reductions in nursing budgets, as well as a growing nursing shortage. The unacceptable result has been fewer nurses working longer hours, and this compromises patient care and causes attrition from an already meager staff.

Our nation’s hospitals, nursing homes, and healthcare facilities are requiring that nurses care for a greater number of patient with fewer resources, and nurses say the emphasis is on profit, not quality care. The numbers of patients under a single nurse’s care are growing daily, even in surgical, and critical care units – and patients are dying. Medical hours are the third leading cause of death in the United States, and the nurses know that without meaningful change and concentration on the issue, more people may die from preventable causes.

The fact that these nurses, representing Show Me Your Stethoscope, Nurses for National Patient Ratios, and Voices for Nurses Now took it upon themselves to make this pilgrimage shows the level of their concern, their frustration and their desire to see a supportive and productive work environment that will no doubt result in better patient care. With the 2016 D.C. Event being proclaimed a success, the nurses are already planning to return in 2017.

California is the only state in the country that currently mandates safe staffing ratios; there are two bills in Congress to address safe staffing limits that are built around California’s model. H.R. 1602 and S 864 ( Nurse Staffing Standards for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2015 / National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act) , will contain the following provisions although the below list is not inclusive.

  • Requires HHS to develop a transparent method for establishing nurse staffing requirements above minimum ratios.
  • Directs HHS to adjust Medicare payments to hospitals to cover additional costs incurred in providing services to 
 Medicare beneficiaries that are attributable to compliance with such ratios.
  • Allows a nurse to oppose to, or refuse to participate in, any job that the nurse is not prepared by education or experience to fulfill without compromising the safety of a patient.
  • Allows a nurse to oppose to, or refuse to participate in, any assignment if it would violate minimum ratios
  • Prohibits a hospital from taking action against a nurse based on the nurse’s refusal to accept an assignment for the above reasons; or discriminating against any individual for good faith complaints relating to the care, services, or conditions of the facilities.
  • Gives nurses the right to act as the patient’s advocate by initiating action to improve health care and by giving the patient an opportunity to make informed health care decisions.