Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Reps. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) recently re-introduced he RN Safe Staffing Act (S. 58/H.R. 876)  for the 2011-12 Congressional session. The legislation being proposed addresses several factors that would have an impact on the staffing of nurses in various patient care settings, including acuity of patients, experience level of nursing staff, unit layout and ancillary support level. Essentially, the proposed legislation would serve to find the correct nurse-patient ratio for any hospital unit.

In 2003-2004, the American Nurses Association (ANA) originally worked with the legislators on The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act – designed to hold hospitals responsible for the development and implementation of safe, reliable nurse staffing schedules based on the specific needs of each unit. The Act was then re-introduced in 2007-2008 and refined and re-proposed again in 2009-2010.

The latest proposal for the Act would make hospitals participating in Medicare responsible for the development of staffing plans for each unit. Designed by committees, each plan would require at least 55 percent direct care nurses.

According to the ANA Safe Staffing website, the RN Safe Staffing Act would also:

  • Establish adjustable minimum numbers of RNs for each unit.
  • Ensure that staffing plans:
    • Are based upon patient numbers and the severity of the patients’ health needs (acuity).
    • Take into account the level of education, training and experience of the RNs.
    • Take into account the availability of support staff.
    • Reflect staffing levels recommended by specialty nursing organizations.
    • Consider the physical layout of the unit and available technology.
    • Do not require RNs to work in units where they are not trained or experienced.

The bill also includes compliance provisions that would:

  • Require public reporting of staffing information. Hospitals must post daily for each shift the number of licensed and unlicensed staff providing direct patient care, specifically noting the number of RNs.
  • Require the collection and submission of data that could be used to establish a link between nurse staffing and patient acuity.
  • Hold hospitals accountable and establishing procedures for receiving and investigating complaints.
  • Allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to impose civil monetary penalties for each knowing violation.
  • Provide whistle-blower protections for RNs and others who may file a complaint regarding staffing.

MedPro Staffing is carefully following the progression of the Safe Nurse Staffing Act, and we’ll be sure to share the latest news here on our blog.  And if you’re looking for your next travel nursing career opportunity, search our currently available jobs or contact us today!