Senate DFLers joined with nurses from across Minnesota in a press conference this week to introduce the “Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act” to address the hospital short-staffing and retention crisis.
Currently, Minnesota nurses are overworked and overwhelmed, hospitals are understaffed, and patients are overcharged by hospital executives trying to boost their bottom lines. These conditions that hospital CEOs created are driving nurses away from the profession and hurting patient care. This legislation puts patients and workers before profits to fix the under-staffing and retention crisis while improving the quality-of-care patients receive at Minnesota hospitals.
The set of provisions in the bill would address several critical areas of need and issues facing Minnesota’s nurses.
Establish Nurse Staffing Committees at Minnesota Hospitals
The bill would require all hospitals in the state of Minnesota to create a staffing committee of nurses and management. This committee will put together a core staffing plan for each unit of the facility every year and will meet quarterly to determine if the staffing plan is still adequate to meet the needs of patients. Each staffing committee will be composed of at least 50% nurses.
Set Limits on the Number of Patients Per Nurse
While providing flexibility across hospitals and units, under the bill each staffing committee plan must set a strict maximum limit on the number of patients that any one nurse should safely care for. Each staffing plan will also establish criteria for when a lower patient assignment would be appropriate.
Recruit and Train Nursing Students
While Minnesota continues to train more than enough nursing students to meet the state’s needs, this bill would dedicate new resources to ensure we continue to attract and train a skilled and diverse workforce of Registered Nurses in Minnesota. This includes broadening an existing student loan forgiveness program for new nursing instructors and allocating $5 million to launch a new student loan forgiveness program for nurses working at the bedside in Minnesota hospitals.
Retain and Sustain Minnesota Nurses
The solution to the hospital retention crisis requires holding hospital CEOs accountable to safe staffing levels, but additional measures can help to support nurses working at the bedside. One significant effort funded by this bill would provide nearly $5 million for grants to hospitals to establish mental health programs for nurses and other health care professionals. The bill also provides an annual appropriation of $50,000 for the Minnesota Department of Health to develop and implement violence prevention strategies for nurses and patients in Minnesota hospitals.
Review and Release Hospital Safety Data
The bill includes several provisions to make the decisions of hospital executives more transparent to the public, to hold CEOs accountable when data shows that there are safety or other staffing problems which need to be addressed. The bill would require the hospital staffing committees to review all Concern for Safe Staffing forms filed by nurses and to consider changes based on the data. The bill would also establish an annual report from the Minnesota Department of Health on Nursing Data. This new effort would conduct studies on the state of nursing in Minnesota including on nurse staffing and retention in Minnesota hospitals, the workplace environment, and the ability to provide quality patient care.