Nurses testify in favor of bipartisan safe staffing bills

Lansing, MI – Nurses today testified before the House Health Policy Committee in favor of a bipartisan 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 levels. 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. Polling shows that 93% of registered nurses with Michigan licenses support the Safe Patient Care Act. The same poll found that 42% of nurses reported knowing of a patient death due to unsafe RN staffing levels. This is nearly double from 2016.

Investigative reporting has shown healthcare corporations were making significant profits both in Michigan and nationally while lobbying against safe staffing legislation. Research has shown that California has better staffing levels than other states since passing this law as well as better health outcomes than numerous other states – including Michigan.

Furthermore, a University of Michigan study published this year 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.

More than one-third of RNs with active Michigan licenses are choosing to not work as nurses, according to government data. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) reported that there are 154,758 RNs with active Michigan licenses as of January. Yet only 102,480 people are employed as RNs in the state of Michigan, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) available at the time.

Nurses from across Michigan testified in support of the legislation:

Jamie Brown, President of the Michigan Nurses Association and a critical care nurse in Kalamazoo, testified in the hearing: “Forty-two percent of Michigan RNs reported knowing of a patient dying because of nurse understaffing. That’s nearly double from 2016 when it was at 22 percent… We want Michigan to be a leader and a place where nurses want to work. The Safe Patient Care Act will make that a reality.”

Rachel Hunt, a nurse in the Battle Creek area who is no longer working at the bedside due to unsafe staffing levels, testified in the hearing: “I will not work in these current conditions. It’s demoralizing to leave every single shift knowing I cannot possibly provide the care the patients deserve, and I that am trained to give… If the nurse-to-patient ratio bill passes, I would gladly go back to the bedside.”

Carolyn Clemons, a special care nursery RN at a Grand Blanc-area hospital and a Teamsters Local 332 representative, testified in the hearing: “I worked throughout the pandemic, when we lost 52 people in 30 days. My breaking point was when I sat in my car shaking and crying, not wanting to go into work. It wasn’t the pandemic and death per se, although that definitely took its toll.  It was more the fact that I didn’t feel supported by administration. Understaffing started before the pandemic, continued through it and it continues today… My frustration is that administration is not planning properly for our staffing needs. That’s why we need a law that establishes safe limits on patient assignments.”

Nikia Parker, MNA member and a nurse in Traverse City, testified in the hearing: “If the Safe Patient Care Act passes, I am one of those nurses who would return to the bedside full time to provide direct care and I know many others would as well. Our communities deserve the best.”

The Safe Patient Care Act is widely supported by nurses across the state. In addition to those who testified, nurses have been expressing support for the legislation from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula:

Dina Carlisle, OPEIU Regional VP, Local 40 president and a nurse who works in the Detroit area, said: “Passing the Safe Patient Care Act would usher in an era of patient-centered care, where decisions are guided by compassion, expertise, and evidence-based practices. This legislation is a testament to our collective commitment to improve healthcare outcomes and promote the well-being of all Michiganders.”

Khanh Nguyen, MNA member and a nurse who works in the Lansing area, said: “I came to the Capitol on my day off because I know how important it is for our legislators to take action. Nurses have been warning for years about the dangers of hospital executives acting without accountability. Patients are paying the price. With today’s hearing, it feels like legislators in Lansing are starting to wake up to the reality nurses face every single day.”

Chelsea McGrath, an MNA member and a nurse who works at a Marquette area hospital, said: “Our hospital was taken over by a large corporation that seems to put profits before patients. Upper Peninsula patients deserve to have the highest quality of care but we’re worried about where things are headed unless something changes and corporations are held accountable. We’re pleading with our legislators to listen to nurses and pass these life-saving laws.”

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 and most effective union 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
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