Merkley, Joyce Announce Introduction of Bipartisan Legislation to Make Hospitals Safer for Nurses and Patients

Washington, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) announced that they have introduced legislation to make hospitals safer for nurses and patients. The Safe Staffing for Nurse and Patient Safety Act of 2018 requires hospitals participating in Medicare to implement adequate staffing plans for nursing services and establishes whistleblower protections for patients and employees.

“As the husband of a nurse, I know firsthand the many challenges nurses face and how critical their care is to patients,” said Merkley. “Safe staffing enhances the quality of patient care, reduces medical errors, and increases nurse retention.”

“As a husband of a nurse, I have experienced first-hand the many challenges and responsibilities nurses face on a day to day basis,” said Joyce. “Ensuring patient safety and care has always been a priority but has faced many challenges when nurses are over worked and hospitals are under staffed. As Co-Chair of the House Nursing Caucus, I am proud to introduce legislation that addresses the issue and protects our patients and nurses.”

The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR).

“Patient safety should be a priority when it comes to improving our healthcare system,” DelBene said. “That’s why I’m honored to join Congressman Joyce and Senator Merkley in introducing this vital legislation that creates a pathway for each hospital to guarantee it is properly staffed, allowing frontline healthcare workers to deliver high-quality care.”

“Nurses are the driving force of our healthcare system, providing top-notch healthcare while ensuring patient safety and comfort,” said Gabbard, Co-Chair of the House Nursing Caucus. “Unfortunately too many hospitals, especially in our rural and underserved communities, face a nursing shortage – putting patient lives and health at risk and driving up hospital costs. Adding nurses to hospital staffing plans would help to dramatically prevent hospital deaths, reduce infections and hospital readmissions, and save hospitals nearly $3 billion. Our bipartisan legislation will support and empower nurses in Hawai‘i and across the country to deliver quality healthcare for all.”

“Nurses are on the front lines of patient care and are a critical part of our health care system,” said Bonamici. “When we improve support for nurses and give them a meaningful voice in staffing decisions, we are saving lives and improving health outcomes for patients. Oregon has long been a leader in safe staffing, with a process to make sure there are enough nurses to meet the needs of the patients in any given unit on any shift. I’m proud to join Congressman Joyce in introducing this bipartisan legislation modeled on Oregon’s approach to supporting safe staffing levels for nurses.”

The U.S. is projected to experience a shortage of registered nurses that is expected to increase as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows.  This legislation will help improve retention of registered nurses and ensure that patients receive quality care at hospitals.

“RN staffing makes a critical difference for patients and the quality of their care,” said Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, president of the American Nurses Association. “Appropriate nurse staffing keeps patients safe and protects them from preventable complications, even lowering the risk of death. Nursing care is like medication—we would never withhold a medication when we know its lifesaving effects. The Safe Staffing for Nurse and Patient Safety Act empowers direct care nurses to determine the unique and variable needs of their patients to ensure the safety and quality outcomes of care.” 

To date, seven states, including Oregon, have passed similar legislation to ensure safe staffing by utilizing a hospital-wide safe staffing committee.