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Governor signs Patient Safety Act, marking a step forward in strengthening how hospitals develop nurse staffing plans


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OLYMPIA – (May 8, 2017) The state’s leading organizations representing nurses and hospitals today applauded Governor Jay Inslee’s signing of the Patient Safety Act, a collaborative effort to strengthen nurse staffing committees and staffing plans for nurses in hospitals across the state.   

“Safe nurse staffing is essential to delivering high-quality care to patients,” said Governor Jay Inslee. “This bill is the result of hard work and collaboration by legislators, hospitals and nursing organizations. I am pleased to sign this legislation into law."
The Washington State Nurses Association, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, UFCW21 and the Washington State Hospital Association worked with bill sponsor Rep. Eileen Cody and Sen. Ann Rivers, who championed the bill in the Senate, to reach a collaborative agreement. HB 1714 strengthens hospital nurse staffing committees’ role in addressing staffing concerns, and gives the state Department of Health greater oversight of nurse staffing in hospitals. The bill also clarifies how hospitals approve and make changes to staffing plans.

“Staffing that supports nurses in providing safe, high-quality patient care is the No. 1 issue for nurses in our state,” said Judy Huntington, MN, RN, executive director of the Washington State Nurses Association. “This law will make the committees that create staffing plans stronger and hold hospitals accountable for following the adopted staffing plan. In the end, this is about giving our patients safe, high-quality care, which is a goal nurses and hospitals share. We look forward to working collaboratively on this.”

SEIU 1199NW, representing nurses and other health care workers, also applauded passage of the bill: “Patient safety should always come first in every hospital across the state and this law represents important collaboration between frontline nurses who have spoken out on this issue for years, Washington hospitals, and state lawmakers,” said Chris Barton, RN, Director of the SEIU Healthcare 1199NW Nurse Alliance. “This important work builds on our previous patient safety work and will improve care for our patients who are counting on us to be their advocates in vulnerable and difficult moments.”

Kristi Certain, a UFCW21 member and co-chair of the hospital staffing committee at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia attended the bill signing: "When nurses like me are understaffed and overworked we are not able to provide the high-quality care our communities deserve,” Certain said. “This law adds much needed transparency to how our hospitals are staffed, and strengthens staffing committees to ensure that those caring for patients have a seat at the table as well. This collaboration is an important step toward our common goal of providing the best patient care possible.”

The Patient Safety Act, which updates the 2008 nurse staffing law, was a joint effort between nursing groups and the Washington State Hospital Association.
“Appropriate staffing is paramount to providing the best care possible to patients, and this bill outlines the right approach to ensuring our hospitals have the nurses they need on the floor,” WSHA President and CEO Cassie Sauer said. ”We appreciated the opportunity to work collaboratively to find a solution that is effective and favorable to our nurses as well as our hospitals and health systems. We’re excited to continue working together on this important issue and improving care in our state.”
Nurse staffing committees are already in place in each hospital in the state. The committees have hospital administrators, nurse leaders and staff nurses providing direct care, and they are charged with working together to determine appropriate nurse-to-patient levels for each unit of the hospital. HB 1714 strengthens the committees by, among other things:

  • Requiring that hospital administrators work with nurses on staffing committees to develop a staffing plan, and that hospitals submit their adopted staffing plan to the Washington State Department of Health.
  • Requiring that the committee take into account needs of patients as primary component in addition to hospital resources and finance when developing a plan and that facilities have control over changes in the plan.
  • Allowing nurses to file complaints with the hospital’s staffing committee and/or the Department of Health if the staffing plan isn’t followed and requires that DOH investigate documented complaints. If a hospital fails to correct a substantiated violation, DOH can impose a civil penalty of $100 per day.
  • Requiring that DOH maintain public inspection records of any civil penalties, administrative actions, or license suspensions or revocations imposed on hospitals.