It’s just the second week of the state legislative session, but we have already had hearings on a key issue for health care leaders: nurse staffing. On Monday, Jan. 21, WSHA members testified against bills promoted by the nursing unions that would require uninterrupted meal and rest breaks for nurses and other caregivers, and place rigid constraints on the use of prescheduled on-call and overtime. These bills would harm patient safety by leading to pre-scheduled breaks that disrupt the flow of important patient information and delaying important non-emergency care, such as heart- or cancer-related procedures.
WSHA is promoting an alternative nurse staffing bill this session, which proposes to resolve complaints about missed meal and rest breaks through the proven process of hospital staffing committees, address nurse fatigue by capping direct patient care to 60 hours per week and require hospitals work to find a replacement for fatigued nurses if they are called in immediately before or after a regularly scheduled 12-hour shift and the nurse indicates he or she needs to be replaced. Every hospital in the state now has a staffing committee to address this issue of staffing complaints.
It’s critical that nurses and other caregivers get the breaks they need, as well as an opportunity to recharge. We believe our bill is the best way to address the issue, because we owe it to the patients of Washington State to create a safe, quality-driven environment that can lead to the best outcomes.
We will keep you informed of the status of this issue throughout the legislative session. You can read more in our latest edition of Inside Olympia and in our media release announcing our nurse staffing bill. Thank you to our members from St. Elizabeth Hospital, Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, Pullman Regional Hospital and St. Clare Hospital for testifying this week.
WSHA Senior VP of Government Affairs