Strategic priority — health access

This story was published in the Spring-Summer 2021 issue of The Washington Nurse magazine.

This story appears in Biennial Report of Achievements.

Promoting equitable access to health care is funda­mental to our role of caring for all patients and commu­ni­ties. Over the past biennium, WSNA focused on adequate public health funding, nursing workforce recruit­ment and reten­tion, ensuring access to afford­able care, public health and promoting health equity to meet the needs of Washington state residents.

Achievements #

  • Together with partners, increased state funding for founda­tional public health services by $22 million in 2019, with an additional $28 million in 2020.
  • Secured $40 million in the state budget to boost nurse faculty salaries in commu­nity and technical colleges.
  • Success­fully advocated for legis­la­tion creating a Sexual Assault Coordi­nated Commu­nity Response Task Force to develop model proto­cols ensuring sexual assault victims receive a coordi­nated commu­nity response at any hospital or clinic.

WSNA helps win $50 million down payment on public health infrastructure #

104 wa nurse 50 million

WSNA, along with public health organi­za­tions, has been asking the State Legis­la­ture to find a dedicated and sustain­able public health funding stream for 20 years. We joined with our allies to get what we consid­ered down payments on founda­tional public health funding of $22 million in 2019 and $28 million in 2020 in the state budget.

Like nothing in living memory, the coron­avirus pandemic put a spotlight on the need for strong and effec­tive public health agencies. After Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency on Feb. 29, 2020 and with COVID-19 cases hitting their first peak in Washington state, the State Legis­la­ture passed a COVID-19 response bill that included $125 million for state agencies to support COVID-19 response. The bill also stated that an individual under quaran­tine during the COVID-19 outbreak is eligible to receive unemploy­ment insur­ance benefits. Governor Inslee signed the bill on March 17, 2020.

While that emergency funding was urgently needed, it did not solve the issue of a dedicated public health funding stream to rebuild our public health infra­struc­ture — a critical compo­nent of being prepared for the next public health emergency. Public health funding was a priority going into the 2021 Legisla­tive Session, which was still in session as this issue of The Washington Nurse magazine went to press.

Legislature invests $40 million to retain and recruit nurse educators #

2104 wa nurse recruit educators

WSNA went into the 2019 legisla­tive session with statis­tics in hand: Around the state, more than 800 quali­fied nursing school appli­cants were being turned away each year. The primary reason was vacant faculty positions. There simply were not enough nurse educa­tors to teach the courses, even though programs had avail­able student slots.

A survey of nurse educa­tors conducted by the Washington Center for Nursing and the Council of Nursing Educa­tion in Washington State identi­fied that the number one reason nurse educa­tors consid­ered leaving their positions was low pay, followed by lack of a manage­able workload. Nursing faculty, who are required to have earned a master’s degree in order to teach, were very often making less than new regis­tered nurses gradu­ating from two-year programs and going to work as staff nurses in local hospitals.

Nursing faculty, who are required to have earned a master’s degree in order to teach, were very often making less than new registered nurses graduating from two-year programs and going to work as staff nurses in local hospitals.

Compounding the problem, the survey found that 38 percent of commu­nity and technical college nursing faculty and 40 percent of four-year college and univer­sity nursing faculty expected to retire by 2027.

WSNA, together with our union partners, made nurse educator funding a legisla­tive priority in 2019 — talking with lawmakers about the need to increase nurse educator salaries in order to ultimately increase the state’s output of new nurse graduates.

The 2019 Workforce Educa­tion Invest­ment Act desig­nated $40 million solely to increase nurse educator salaries.

Nurse educator salaries remain a priority for WSNA. The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need to graduate more highly skilled nurses to ensure we have enough nurses to safely care for all patients.

WSNA member serves on SANE task force #

Wahlgren sane

WSNA member Stephanie Wahlgren, BSN, SANE, was named to serve on the state-level Sexual Assault Coordi­nated Commu­nity Response Task Force after passage of the bill that created it in 2020. The Task Force is charged with devel­oping model proto­cols ensuring sexual assault victims receive a coordi­nated commu­nity response when presenting for care at any hospital or clinic following a sexual assault.Stephanie’s experi­ence as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and her position on WSNA’s Legisla­tive and Health Policy Council has informed devel­op­ment of state policies and bills that address sexual assault and violence.

Biennial Report of Achievements

Strategic priority - association vitality

Much of our work in this arena is behind the scenes: strengthening operations and infrastructure. In 2020, the WSNA Board of Directors added a focus on addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in our organization and our work.

Strategic priority - quality and safety

At its core, our work is about promoting behaviors and practices that positively impact the safety of registered nurses and patients and lead to improved quality outcomes for all residents of Washington. After the coronavirus pandemic hit our state, much of our focus was on ensuring the safety of nurses and their patients.