Federal requirements for unit-by-unit staffing plans and publicly reporting those staffing plans are at the heart of the newly introduced Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act of 2014 (S. 2353), which stops short of dictating across-the-board, mandated, nurse-patient ratios.
Crafted with input from the ANA, the legislation is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and is companion legislation to a House bill introduced a year ago, the Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act of 2013 (H.R. 1821).
Jerome Mayer, associate director, Department of Government Affairs at the ANA, tells me that the ANA isn't "directly opposed" to the kind of mandated nurse-patient ratios that California has in place and that some nurses in Massachusetts are fighting for (and against).
"But we think we have a more pragmatic approach," which is outlined in the new legislation, Mayer says.
That approach does include staffing ratios, but they would be set by the nurses themselves and would vary by unit and even by shift.
The bill would require hospitals to establish committees that would create unit-by-unit nurse staffing plans based factors such as the number of patients on the unit, severity of the patients' conditions, experience and skill level of the RNs, availability of support staff, and technological resources.