FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 11, 2003
Capps Introduces Legislation to Require Safe
Nurse-to-Patient Staff Ratios
Bill Will Improve Quality of Care in Nation's Hospitals
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congresswoman Lois Capps today announced the introduction of important new health safety legislation to address the direct link between the number of registered nurses and the quality of care provided in our nation's hospitals. The Quality Nursing Care Act of 2004 (HR 3656) would require each hospital, in consultation with the nursing staff, to implement a staffing system that ensures an appropriate number of registered nurses on each shift and in each unit of the hospital to guarantee quality patient care.
"Sufficient staffing is the number one concern of nurses today, and it is critical to the delivery of quality patient care," said Capps, a registered nurse and co-chair of the House Nursing Caucus. "It's no secret that when there aren't enough nurses on the floor, there is an increased chance of medical errors and leads to staff burnout, greater work stress, and compromised patient care, and more nurses leaving the profession. This bill will encourage nurses and hospitals to work together to make sure the right number of nurses are there to provide the excellent care that each and every patient deserves."
Specifically, the Quality Nursing Care Act of 2004 amends the conditions of participation for hospitals in the Medicare program and establishes a requirement for minimum staffing ratios. Rather than establishing a specific numeric ratio, that act requires the establishment of a staffing system that "ensures a number of registered nurses on each shift and in each unit of the hospital to ensure appropriate staffing levels for patient care."
"The American Nurses Association (ANA) commends Representative Capps for her leadership on this issue and for her commitment to protecting patients and nurses from practices that are dangerous," said ANA President Barbara Blakeney. "This legislation is necessary to improve the work environment for nurses, and it will help in recruiting new nurses into the profession while also retaining those nurses who are already practicing."
The act mandates that the staffing system:
* Require input from direct care-giving RNs or their exclusive representatives;
* Be based upon the number of patients and level and intensity of care to be provided, with consideration given to admissions, discharges and transfers during each shift;
* Account for architecture and geography of the environment and available technology;
* Reflect the level of preparation and experience of those providing care;
* Reflect staffing levels recommended by specialty nursing organizations;
* Account for ancillary staff support;
* Provide that a RN not be assigned to work in a particular unit without first having established the ability to provide professional care in such a unit;
* Be based on methods that assure validity and reliability.
In addition, the Quality Nursing Care Act of 2004 requires public reporting of staffing information. Hospitals must post daily for each shift the number of licensed and unlicensed staff providing direct patient care, specifically noting the number of RNs.
Finally, the bill provides whistle-blower protections for RNs and others who may file a complaint regarding staffing. The bill establishes procedures for receiving and investigating complaints, and creates including civil monetary penalties that can be imposed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services for each knowing violation.