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.
- 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 #
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 #
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.
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 #
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.