Staffing legislation’s one-size-fits-all approach will increase costs & delay care

February 3, 2022

Two bills currently under consideration by the Washington State Legislature could have dire consequences for Washingtonians’ access to lifesaving health care. House Bill 1868 and Senate Bill 5751 impose rigid staffing standards, raising health care costs and limiting access.

Hospitals have a current shortage of more than 6,000 registered nurses. WSHA estimates that this bill will require hiring at least an additional 15,000 RNs and certified nursing assistants, increasing health care costs in Washington State by a conservative estimate of more than $1 billion. Implementing these strict staffing ratios would require hospitals to temporarily shut down services, including emergency departments, whenever they did not have enough staff to meet the state requirements.

Hospitals have long advocated for increased investment in nursing and other allied health programs. In 2019, WSHA advocated for state funding to increase pay for nurse educators. We have also long been a supporter of Washington joining the Nursing Licensure Compact. The compact would allow nurses from 25 states to move to Washington and begin a nursing career here more easily. Washington’s isolation from the compact is a deterrent to nurses considering relocating or working here.

Instead of imposing rigid staffing standards and steep administrative penalties, Washington’s hospitals are encouraging legislators to:

  • Increase investments in health care education in Washington State, including adding more slots to nursing education programs, further increasing pay for nurse instructors, expanding innovative apprenticeship programs, and adding financial and social support for people pursuing a nursing degree.
  • Increase payment rates for the long-term care system so patients with no medical need can move out of hospitals and ease the number of patients being cared for by nurses.
  • Support and strengthen Washington State’s current nurse staffing committee model that brings together frontline staff and nurse leaders to develop staffing plans at the local level.
  • Join the interstate nurse compact to allow licensed nurses to more easily move here from other states and begin working. The compact is working already in 25 states, with eight more planning to join.

Take action now to protect patient safety and access. Make your voice heard and learn more here.


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