Nurses Converge on Capitol Hill for Patient and Caregiver Safety

IB ImageUnion members shared their personal stories with lawmakers about the need for adequate nurse staffing and comprehensive safe patient-handling programs in hospitals and healthcare facilities. 

"We are losing experienced nurses to burnout," said Backus Fed. of Nurses President John Brady (pictured with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney). "Bills to improve staffing may have to be the wave of the future. But it's not just about passing a bill. We have to be willing to do the groundwork to implement the legislation as intended," added Brady, a registered nurse (RN) at William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich.
 
Decades of research has linked nurse staffing levels to patient outcomes. Many of the findings show the tipping point in patient care assignments that result in increased readmissions, higher mortality rates and poorer outcomes. Such findings often are ignored by hospital administrators who instead choose to cut front-line nursing and caregiver staff. 
 
Click here for a fact sheet on "safe staffing" from the AFL-CIO's Department for Professional Employees.
 
AFT at the national level has been a leading voice for safe staffing in hospitals, health facilities and public schools. Delegates to the 2014 AFT Convention passed a resolution in support of efforts at the local, state and federal level to set, maintain and monitor safe caregiver to patient, or school nurse to student, ratios.
 
Click here for the full text of the resolution.
 
Sens. Barbara Boxer (CA) and Sherrod Brown (OH) in March joined Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL) to introduce the National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act to address nurse staffing.
 
Click here for press coverage of the proposed legislation.
 
AFT will additionally devote advocacy resources to passage of the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act, which is expected this month to be reintroduced to Congress. The legislation will address safe patient handling, an issue that has gained considerable attention due to the high rates of musculoskeletal injuries among caregivers caused by overexertion.
 
Click here for award-winning reporting on nursing and healthcare professionals' workplace injuries.
 
AFT Connecticut has long advocated for legislation that would create greater transparency for hospital staff, patients and their families in our state. Brady and fellow union members in February testified to the General Assembly's Public Health Committee in favor of a bill requiring daily nurse staff levels to be reported annually.
 
The bill was amended to include a requirement for reporting incidents of workplace violence on hospital staff and earlier this month passed unanimously in the state Senate. It awaits action in the state House before the legislature adjourns early next month.
 
Click here to learn more abut the "Safe Staffing CT" movement.