Lansing, MI – A legislative plan to set safe limits on the number of patients nurses can be assigned, curb excessive mandatory nurse overtime, and require hospitals to disclose their RN staffing has been introduced in both the state House and state Senate. The bills, known as the Safe Patient Care Act, aim to keep patients safe in Michigan hospitals and build and retain a strong nursing workforce.
“Healthcare is in crisis because of years of hospital understaffing. Every year, the situation gets worse. We have reached the point now where almost 40% of current nurses say that they are planning to leave within the next year,” said Jamie Brown, a critical care nurse and president of the Michigan Nurses Association. “Hospital executives have failed to fix the problem for over a decade. The only way to keep patients safe is through meaningful action that will hold corporate executives accountable. We need patients to be put before profits.”
Nurses and elected officials held a press conference today to call for this legislation, which has dozens of cosponsors, as part of the solution to the nurse retention and patient safety crises in Michigan’s hospitals.
“With new leadership in government, we hope that this will be the year that meaningful action is taken,” said Jessica Lannon, RN, an MNA board member. “Every year for Nurses Week, RNs are told how important we are. While we appreciate the words, they are not enough. RNs are leaving the bedside because of worsening working conditions every day. The best way to honor nurses this May is to pass laws like the Safe Patient Care Act that make our working conditions better and will bring my fellow RNs back to direct care. Every day that we don’t act, hospitals become more dangerous for patients and nurses.”
“We cannot keep asking nurses to do more with less. Nurses have repeatedly shared the exhaustion and moral fatigue they are experiencing,” said Representative Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City). “Research has shown that requiring nurses to work too many hours is both unsafe for patients and increases the likelihood of RNs leaving the profession entirely. It’s time to end this outdated and dangerous practice.”
A recently released survey of over 9,000 Michigan nurses reveals the scope of the issues facing nurses and patients. The University of Michigan study published in a peer-reviewed journal indicates that:
- When mandatory overtime is frequently used, nurses are 72% more likely to have left the profession within the past two years.
- Nearly 40% of Michigan nurses say they plan to leave their job within the next year.
- 83% of currently practicing nurses say adequate staffing is their main concern.
- 84% of currently practicing nurses report emotional exhaustion.
“As a country, we have decided that for everyone’s safety there must be limits on the number of hours that pilots and truck drivers can be made to work in one day,” said Senator Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit). “When patients’ lives are on the line, it’s just common sense that similar limitations be in place for RNs. I deeply value and respect the work that nurses do. It’s time that we listen to them and pass this law.”
“Nurses in my district have been sounding the alarm about working conditions in hospitals for years. As their representative, I take what they are saying extremely seriously,” said Representative Carrie Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor). “Requiring this basic level of transparency is an important step to attracting nurses back into direct patient care, making hospital administrators more accountable, and improving patient outcomes.”
An independent poll of Michigan nurses commissioned by the Michigan Nurses Association earlier this year found similar findings to University of Michigan’s survey of nurses. This poll, conducted by Emma White Research with a +/- 4.9% margin of error, found that:
- Over nine in ten RNs say requiring nurses to care for too many patients at once is affecting the quality of patient care.
- The number of nurses who say they know of a patient death due to nurses being assigned too many patients nearly doubled from 22% in 2016 to 42% this year.
- Requiring set nurse-to-patient ratios would make a difference in retaining and returning qualified nurses to the field. Three-quarters of nurses currently working in direct patient care say they would be more likely to stay if such legislation passes, while nearly four in ten who have left say they would be more likely to come back.
The poll also showed that the vast majority of RNs blame working conditions, not a shortage of qualified RNs, for the staffing crisis. Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) reported that there are 154,758 RNs with active Michigan licenses as of January. Yet only 102,480 people who are employed as RNs in the state of Michigan, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that a full one-third of RNs with active Michigan licenses are choosing to not work as nurses.
“Bedside nurses, patients, and peer-reviewed research all agree: our healthcare system is in trouble and patients are dying. We cannot continue doing what we’ve been doing and expect different results,” said Representative Stephanie Young (D-Detroit). “Michigan should lead the way by passing laws that establish minimum nurse-to-patient ratios. Patient safety and the overall health of our nurses must be prioritized and now is the time to do it.”
“How many more nurses have to leave the profession before we start listening to RNs about the problems they are facing? How many more studies have to come out showing that out-of-control staffing levels are creating a downward spiral in healthcare?” said Senator Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit). “As elected officials, we have a responsibility to act to keep patients safe and help nurses stay at the bedside. I am proud to sponsor this bill that will create safe nurse-to-patient ratios to protect patients and stop the domino effect of RNs leaving the profession due to unsustainable working conditions.”
The bills in the package are sponsored in the state House and Senate by:
Limit the number of patients a nurse can be assigned
Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), Senate Bill 334
Rep. Stephanie Young (D-Detroit), House Bill 4550
Curb forced RN overtime
Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Senate Bill 335
Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City), House Bill 4551
Require hospitals to release their actual RN-to-patient ratios
Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), Senate Bill 336
Rep. Carrie Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor), House Bill 4552
The Michigan Nurses Association is the largest union and professional association for registered nurses and healthcare professionals in Michigan. MNA is an affiliate of National Nurses United and the AFL-CIO.
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Contact: Amelia Dornbush, 517-896-7478