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The Safe Patient Care Act would protect Michigan nurses from being overworked

Sparrow Health System
Posted at 9:08 AM, Jul 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-23 09:18:38-04

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Nurses Association has been pushing for a decade for legislative protections against being overworked. The pandemic made it clear why.

"We bring nurses to Lansing once or twice a year to talk to our legislators and give the nurses' stories, because a lot of people don't realize – well, before this last year – what nurses were doing at the bedside and how stressful it can be," said Michigan Nurses Associations President Jamie Brown, who is a critical care nurse.

The Safe Patient Care Act, otherwise known as House Bill 4482 and Senate Bill 204, was introduced in March. The bipartisan proposal has recently gained traction in both the state's House of Representatives and Senate.

The act has three main components.

First, it would ensure safe staffing ratios, meaning the number of patients assigned to one nurse would be limited based on the type of nurse.

"It's simply because you can't be everywhere at once," Brown said. "We had a patient that got out of bed, because they were unsteady on their feet, ended up falling and bruising their hip. Every time there's a fall in the hospital, it's heartbreaking for the nurse because we always know there's something we could've done to help."

Brown said, for example, medical-surgical nurses are taking upwards of seven patients per day, when the number should be closer to four.

"We know that when those ratios get higher and higher, then our patients are in danger," said state Rep. Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield Township, a sponsor of the proposed bill.

Nurse-to-patient ratios

Second, the bill would limit forced overtime for nurses.

"This might surprise you, but there is no limit in terms of how many hours a nurse can be asked to work," Brabec said. "So, what this would do is really limit that mandatory overtime...we want our nurses to be alert and aware."

Finally, the act would hold hospitals accountable by mandating full transparency in their nurse-to-patient ratios.

"They're giving us more patients than we should be taking care of," Brown said. "Every nurse at every hospital has experienced short-staffing, for years unfortunately."

Brown said these conditions have been affecting nurses for years and are causing many to leave the profession. It's why we see hospitals, like Sparrow, with more job openings, she said.

Under the Safe Patient Care Act

"There's not actually a nurse shortage. It's, again, the conditions that nurses know about," Brabec said. "If we are able to set these parameters and protections for our nurses and our patients, I do think that people will be like, 'Wow! I can actually do the job that I want to do for my patients.'"

Brabec said on the fast track, this bill could be enacted by mid-fall.

"There's support for this on both sides of the aisle, and so what we're trying to do now is get a hearing and committee," Brabec said.

"It will probably be brought back after we get back in full session in September," said state Rep. Amos O'Neal, D-Saginaw, sponsor of the proposed bill, said. "But, we see it passing with no problems."

The state House has been on break but will meet again on Aug. 17.

To learn more about the proposed legislation, click here.

Mandated hospital transparency

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