U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) today to introduce the National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act, legislation that would establish minimum registered nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals, protect the rights of nurses to advocate on behalf of their patients and invest in training and retaining nurses to address the nationwide nursing shortage.

Image/US Navy
Image/US Navy

“I am proud to introduce this bill to help save the lives of countless patients by improving the quality of care in our nation’s hospitals,” Senator Boxer said. “We must support the hard-working nurses who strive to provide the best possible care to their patients every single day.”

Senator Brown said, “With an aging population in Ohio and across the nation, nurses are more important than ever – which is why it’s so important to invest in our nurses and give them the support they deserve. This legislation would protect nurses who speak up to report violations and will improve patient care by investing in training and establishing minimum nurse-to-patient ratios. Our nurses are a source of medical care and emotional support for patients, and they deserve these protections so they can keep up that important work.”

“Nurses are essential for quality care and patient safety,” Representative Schakowsky said. “Patients know – and study after study shows – that having a nurse at the bedside improves medical outcomes while inadequate staffing levels can result in preventable injuries and deaths.   I’m proud to join with Senator Boxer on this legislation – to require an adequate number or nurses in hospitals and end the dangerous problem of understaffing.”

The legislation builds on the success of California’s historic law that set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios and extends those minimum standards to hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid.

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Establish minimum registered nurse-to-patient ratios that will save lives, improve the quality of care and help to address the nursing shortage by creating a work environment that encourages nurses to remain in the hospital workforce;
  • Implement unit level licensed practical nurse staffing requirements to promote quality care and patient safety;
  • Provide whistleblower protections to protect the right of nurses to advocate for the safety of patients and report violations of minimum standards of care;
  • Invest in nursing mentorship demonstration programs to better prepare nurses for work in a hospital setting.

Senator Boxer and Representative Schakowsky introduced similar legislation in the last Congress, as well as the 111th and 112th Congresses.

The bill  is supported by National Nurses United, the California Nurses Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).