As you are likely aware, hospital staffing is at the forefront of our work in Olympia this legislative session. The nursing unions and their allies in the Legislature are attempting to pass a bill that would mandate patient-to-nurse ratios, which would only exacerbate our staffing crisis and limit patient access to services. However, we have proposed our own package of legislation that will address the workforce crisis by increasing the supply of nurses, which we are calling “Protect Patient Safety & Access.”
So far, lawmakers have introduced five bills as part of this package, and two were up for public hearings this week. The first, SB 5498, establishes the Washington State hospital-based nurse student loan repayment assistance program, benefitting nurses who are not already receiving another form of student loan repayment assistance, greatly easing the burden of student loans. The Senate Committee on Higher Education & Workforce Development held a public hearing on SB 5498 on Wednesday, and WSHA testified in support.
The second, HB 1417, allows Washington to join the 37 other states and two jurisdictions that are already a part of the multistate Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). The NLC allows for nurses to meet uniform license requirements to practice in all participating states and jurisdictions, making it easier for nurses to begin practicing in Washington State. The NLC is especially helpful for military families and communities that border adjacent states, Idaho and many other states with military bases having already adopted the NLC. The House Committee on Postsecondary Education with & Workforce held a public hearing on HB 1417 today, and WSHA again testified in support.
You can read more about these two bills in the most recent edition of Inside Olympia. The other bills we hope will receive public hearings are SB 5537 (establishing the Hospital Patient Care Unit Staffing Innovation Collaborative), SB 5547 (requiring nurse traveler agency transparency) and SB 5503 (standardizing clinical placement hours).
We will keep you informed of more updates as we have them!
WSHA Senior VP of Government Affairs