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UAN Hails Reintroduction of Federal RN Staffing Ratio Bill and Vows to Work for Passage

Quality Health Care for All Depends on Adequate RN Staffing

SILVER SPRING, Md., May 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leaders and members of the United American Nurses, AFL-CIO, pledged to redouble their efforts to secure passage of landmark legislation --reintroduced last night by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) -- that would make federal RN staffing ratios the law of the land.

"As we mark National Nurses Week, I can think of no better gift for RNs and their patients than the assurance that there will be enough RNs at the bedside," said UAN President Ann Converso, RN. "We look forward to working with Congress and President Obama to win passage of this critical legislation." Nearly 100 UAN nurses visited Capitol Hill in March to press Congress to introduce and enact this important bill.

The Nurse Staffing Standards for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2009 (H.R. 2273) would amend the Public Health Service Act to require that all hospitals develop and implement within two years of the bill's enactment staffing plans that must meet newly established minimum direct care registered nurse-to-patient ratios, adjust staffing levels based on acuity of patients and other factors and ensure quality care and patient safety.

Converso added that a federal law is needed to ensure that there are enough RNs on staff: "Nurses and patients do not need another hospital committee, task force or working group to discuss the problem. If hospitals could be trusted to do the right thing without a law, they would have already done so. We need federal legislation to make sure that there is a minimum, basic level of RN care provided no matter where you go."

Studies have shown when there are not enough RNs at the bedside patient care suffers. In one analysis, patients at hospitals with staffing ratios of four patients or more to one nurse suffered from cardiac arrest or shock 9.4 percent more often than patients at hospitals with ratios of 2.5 or fewer patients to one nurse. They also had 9 percent more urinary tract infections, 5 percent more gastrointestinal episodes, and 6.5 percent more cases of pneumonia acquired in the hospital. Surgery patients in short-staffed hospitals were 6 percent more likely to die from complications like shock or sepsis. (Needleman, Jack, et al. "Nurse-Staffing Levels and Quality of Care in Hospitals", The New England Journal of Medicine, May 30, 2002.)

A lack of nurses at the bedside is, in turn, contributing to a nurse staffing crisis as more and more RNs choose less stressful and dangerous career paths. "RNs have choices in their careers, and many are electing not to put themselves, their families and their patients on the line by working understaffed," said Converso. "We must make hospital nursing an attractive option again by increasing RN staffing levels."

Currently, there is no federal law or standard requiring a minimum level of RN staffing. One state, California, has passed an RN staffing ratio law.

The United American Nurses, AFL-CIO, represents nurses across the country in state nurses associations, collective bargaining programs and independent unions, uniting to work for change on the issues important to staff RNs.

SOURCE United American Nurses, AFL-CIO
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