Press release

Staffing bill passage a major step forward in ensuring safe staffing

HB1714 ensures transparency and accountability for hospital nurse staffing plans

The Washington State Nurses Association applauds the legislature for passing the Patient Safety Act today, addressing WSNA’s top issue of safe staffing. The bill creates greater transparency and accountability for nurse staffing plans and the work of nurse staffing committees in hospitals.

This bill, which now moves to the Governor for his signature, represents a real step forward in our ongoing work to hold hospitals accountable for staffing so that nurses can deliver safe, high quality care to their patients.

“Passage of the Patient Safety Act represents a real milestone in our ongoing fight to ensure safe staffing,” said Judy Huntington, MN, RN, executive director of the Washington State Nurses Association. “This legislative victory is a cause for celebration. We have been fighting this fight for decades – and we will continue the fight for safe staffing. We will fight in the legislature, in the courts and at the negotiating table. Our patients are counting on us.”

This legislative session, WSNA worked with other union stakeholders and hospitals on this negotiated bill that builds on the 2008 staffing law to strengthen our staffing committees and increase transparency of hospital nurse staffing plans across the state.

HB 1714 increases transparency of nurse staffing plans in hospitals around the state by amending the current staffing law to:

  • Require hospitals to accept the staffing committee’s staffing plan or to prepare an alternative annual staffing plan that will be adopted by the hospital.
  • Requires hospitals to submit the adopted staffing plan and subsequent changes to the staffing plan to the Washington State Department of Health beginning January 1, 2019.
  • Requires the hospital to implement the staffing plan and assign nursing personnel to each patient care unit in accordance with the plan beginning January 1, 2019.
  • Allow a nurse to report to, and file a complaint with, the staffing committee any time the nurse personnel assignment is not in accordance with the adopted staffing plan.
  • Allows nurses who may disagree with the shift-to-shift adjustments in staffing levels to submit a complaint to the staffing committee.
  • Require staffing committees to develop a process to examine and respond to submitted complaints, and to determine if a complaint is resolved or dismissed based on unsubstantiated data.
  • Require the Washington State Department of Health to investigate complaints with documented evidence for failure to:
    • Form or establish a staffing committee;
    • Conduct a semi-annual review of a nurse staffing plan;
    • Submit a nurse staffing plan on an annual basis and any updates;
    • Follow the nursing staff personnel assignments as adopted by the hospital based on the complaints compiled by the staffing committee that include aggregate data that show a continuing pattern of unresolved violations for a minimum 60-day continuous period. Exceptions include unforeseeable emergent circumstances and documented reasonable efforts by hospital to obtain staffing to meet required assignments.
  • Require hospitals to submit a corrective action plan within 45 days if the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) finds a violation – and, if the hospital fails to submit a corrective action plan or doesn’t follow its corrective action plan, DOH may impose a civil penalty of $100 per day until the hospital submits a corrective action plan, begins to follow a corrective action plan, or takes other action agreed to by DOH.
  • Require the Washington State Department of Health to maintain public inspection records of any civil penalties, administrative actions, or license suspensions or revocations imposed on hospitals.
  • Requires the Washington State Department of Health to submit a report to the legislature by December 31, 2020, on the number of complaints submitted, investigated, associated costs to DOH, and any recommended changes to statute. Requires a stakeholder group including WSNA to review the report before it is submitted to the legislature.
  • This act expires on June 1, 2023.