Trust Nurses on Safe Staffing Law: RNs React to Lobbyist-backed Change to Proposal

Updated on September 26, 2012

The Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA), the professional organization representing Pennsylvania’s 209,000 registered nurses, has engaged legislators and hospital administrators in the process of negotiating and passing the patient-focused Safe Staffing Law in the State Legislature The proposed law puts professional staff nurses in charge of developing and maintaining staffing plans that prevent errors attributed to fatigue and inadequate staffing levels. This commonsense, simple solution recognizes nurses’ shared commitment to a higher standard of patient care.

For many months, PSNA along with the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) and key policy leaders, engaged in productive, good faith negotiations on a bill we recognize as an essential corrective to unsafe staffing levels.  Participants offered special insight ranging from the demands on nurses in a hospital unit to the administration’s important role in providing the best possible environment for all patients and health professionalsBecause of tremendous support from patients and their elected representatives in Harrisburg, the Safe Staffing Law is on its way for swift passage.

Recently, HAP’s lobbying team has attempted to introduce language gutting an essential patient protection element from the bill.  HAP’s lobbyists have proposed language making a staff nurse part of a larger team of “advisors.”  Instead of trusting registered nurses with the responsibility of setting unit levels, a broken system remains largely intact.  In other words, nurses would have no actual say in preventing overworked, fatigued nurses from accepting unsafe unit staffing levels.

“When nurses enter the political process, it’s because we believe our colleagues and patients deserve a seat at the table,” states PSNA Chief Executive Officer Betsy M. Snook. “PSNA believes the diluted Safe Staffing Law no longer puts patients and their families first.  This proposed language unnecessarily shifts accountability for safe staffing from RNs to administrative personnel. And because RNs understand the demands and limits of the daily mission we are tasked with completing, we believe HAP’s lobbyists have asked our patients and their families to compromise the delivery of quality care.”

Pennsylvania’s nurses rarely ask the public to engage on issues impacting our profession, but the passage of an unacceptable version of the Safe Staffing Law has implications on patients far beyond our own work preferences.

“We’re urging the public to contact their state representatives to support passage of Representative Bill Adolph’s (R-Delaware County) House Bill 1880, The Safe Staffing Law, with the strongest possible language designating nurses as the responsible agent for safe staffing,” continues Snook.  “With your immediate and timely help, we’ll win an important victory for Pennsylvania’s patients.  Let’s pass a Safe Staffing Law that gives patients the gold standard of professional care.”

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