(PennLive) When health care professionals wade into the deep end of politics, we’ve learned the truth in the well-worn comparison of lawmaking to sausage making. The process is ugly, and all participants should be ready to trade their ideal bill for the possible. When nurses enter the political process, it’s because we believe our colleagues and patients deserve a seat at the table.
That’s why the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, the organization representing the state’s 211,000 registered nurses, engaged legislators and hospital administrators in the process of negotiating and passing the patient-focused Safe Staffing Law.
The proposed law puts professional staff nurses in charge of developing and maintaining staffing plans that prevent errors attributed to fatigue and inadequate staffing levels. This common sense, simple solution recognizes our shared commitment to a higher standard of patient care.
For many months PSNA, along with the Hospital & Healthsystems Association of Pennsylvania and key policy leaders, engaged in productive, good faith negotiations on a bill we all recognize as an essential corrective to unsafe staffing. At every step, each participant offered special insight ranging from the demands on nurses in a hospital unit to the administration’s important role in providing the best possible environment for all patients and health professionals.
Because of tremendous support from patients and their elected representatives in Harrisburg, the Safe Staffing Law is on its way for swift passage. In the past few days however, the Hospital Association’s lobbying team has attempted to introduce language gutting an essential patient protection element from the bill. HAP’s lobbyists have proposed language making a staff nurse part of a larger team of “advisers.”
PSNA believes the diluted Safe Staffing Law no longer puts patients and their families first. We believe this proposed language unnecessarily shifts accountability for safe staffing from registered nurses to administrative personnel. And because registered nurses understand the demands and limits of the daily mission we are tasked with completing, we believe HAP’s lobbyists have asked our patients and their families to compromise the delivery of quality care.
Pennsylvania’s nurses rarely ask the public to engage on issues impacting our profession, but the passage of an unacceptable version of the Safe Staffing Law has implications on patients far beyond our own work preferences.
We’re urging the public to contact their state representatives to support that passage of Rep. Bill Adolph’s (R-Delaware County) House Bill 1880, The Safe Staffing Law, with the strongest possible language designating nurses as the responsible agent for safe staffing.
With your immediate and timely help, we’ll win an important victory for Pennsylvania’s patients. Let’s pass a Safe Staffing Law that gives patients the gold standard of professional care.
By Betsy M. Snook - Betsy M. Snook is a nurse and chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania State Nurse Association.