Minnesota legislators introduce nurse staffing bill

In Minnesota, there are standards for the number of caretakers per child in daycare, the number of EMTs in an ambulance, and the number of firefighters scheduled for duty. Yet there are no limits on the number of patients a nurse is assigned to at one time. Minnesota lawmakers are hoping to change that and protect hospital patients in Minnesota from serious issues related to short staffing.

This week, legislators introduced the Quality Patient Care Act, which would require hospitals to maintain a minimum number of trained nursing personnel at all times to care for the number of patients at that facility.  The number of nurses on duty would vary by department as well as patient census.

“We know that more staff leads to better patient outcomes,” said bill author Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston). “Minnesota hospitals must have enough staff on duty to take care of their patients, and the Quality Patient Care Act provides for a minimum number of staff while giving hospitals the flexibility to move staff when they need to.”

Nurses ask for nationally accepted standards

The bill states that hospital staffing plans would follow nationally accepted, evidence-based standards that indicate the proper nurse-to-patient ratio for each department. In addition, each hospital must also create safety staffing committee, including nurses.

“Nurses continue to say we are taking care of too many patients at one time,” said Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “Short staffing is unacceptable in Minnesota. Patients suffer when they don’t receive the care they deserve. Their medications are late. Their assessments don’t happen. Their discharge instructions are rushed through. That means some patients have to come back to the hospital with infections or complications.”

In 2016, Minnesota nurses filed a record 3,000 Concern for Safe Staffing forms, citing medication delays, fall risks, unanswered call lights, near-misses, and more that were the result of short staffing by hospitals.

Nurse staffing linked to patient outcomes 

Numerous studies show that nurse staffing has a direct impact on patient outcomes. In fact, for every one patient increase in a nurse’s workload, there’s a 7 percent increase risk of patient mortality, according to a recent study.

“The evidence is clear that the number of hospital staff affects patient outcomes,” said Senate bill author Erik Simonson, (DFL-Duluth). “The Quality Patient Care Act ensures that each hospital has an appropriate number of staff on duty to care for the number of patients in the beds at the time.”

House co-authors of the bill include Minnesota Reps. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul), Peggy Flanagan (DFL-St. Louis Park), Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville), Deb Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center), Leon Lille (DFL-North St. Paul), Raymond Dehn (DFL-Minneapolis), Rick Hansen  (DFL-South St. Paul), Liz Olson (DFL-Duluth), Karen Clark (DFL-Minneapolis), Ilhan Omar (DFL-Minneapolis), and David Bly (DFL-Northfield).  Senate co-authors include John Marty (DFL-Roseville), Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Center), Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood), and Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis).

Learn more about why Minnesota nurses are asking lawmakers to support a safe nurse-to-patient ratio that would help ensure safe, quality care.

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