May 12, 2021

Van Hollen, Colleagues Reintroduce Legislation to Empower Nurses, Improve Patient Care on International Nurses Day

Today, on International Nurses Day, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), in reintroducing the Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care ActNurses have been on the front lines of this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and they deserve more support to ensure they have dignity in the workplace and can put the safety of their patients first.

“Nurses provide vital care to Americans day in and day out – and over the last year have faced unprecedented challenges serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. They’ve been there for the country, and the country needs to stand with them now and provide the support they need in the workplace to safely and effectively care for patients. That’s why I’m glad to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to empower nursing staff and ultimately help ensure better patient care. I urge the Senate to take up this common-sense legislation at once,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

“Nurses worked long hours, doing vital work in our health care system, even before this once-in-a-generation pandemic. They have been on the frontlines of this crisis for more than a year now, and they deserve our support,” said Senator Brown. “Their jobs are critical to keeping patients safe and providing the highest quality care. But too often, nurses are stretched too thin, caring for too many patients with not enough support. We can prevent that by ensuring nurses are adequately staffed, and protecting their ability to go to hospital management, without fearing potential retaliation.”

This legislation would set minimum nurse-to-patient staffing requirements, study best practices for nurse staffing, and provide whistleblower protections to protect the right of nurses to advocate for the safety of their patients. Currently, no rules exist to establish minimum staffing levels at hospitals, which can put patients at risk and often forces nurses to care for too many patients at one time without enough support. 

Studies have shown that lower nurse-to-patient ratios are associated with lower mortality rates. Brown’s bill directs hospitals to develop and implement nurse staffing plans that ensure quality care and patient safety.   

The bill would also provide educational support for nurses through an expansion of the nurse retention grant and support for the nurse workforce loan repayment and scholarship program.

National Nurses United, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and AFSCME have all endorsed this bill.

National Nurses Week started in 1993 after the American Nurses Association declared May 6-12 as the national week to celebrate nurses and the nursing profession. Each year, National Nurses Week ends on May 12 – which is International Nurses Day – to mark Florence Nightingale’s birthday.

“Over the last year, our nation’s nurses have been on the frontlines of this pandemic risking their lives to keep communities across the country healthy and safe. The pandemic has only exacerbated what we already knew – our nurses are overworked and understaffed. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this critical legislation that will create vital protections for nurses, improve patient care and safety, and ensure dignity in the workplace,” said Senator Padilla.

“Before and after the pandemic, our nurses are heroes. Over the last year, they have served on the frontlines of this health crisis, facing enormous challenges while always putting our patients first. Now, it's time to provide them with the support and protection they desperately need. That's why I am proud to reintroduce this critical legislation to guarantee our nurses dignity in the workplace, ensure safe staffing, and provide the best patient care possible,” said Senator Markey.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) is leading this bill in the House of Representatives.

“This National Nurses Week and in celebration of our frontline nurses and heroes on International Nurses Day, I am proud to reintroduce the Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act with my friend Senator Brown,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “Safe staffing levels save lives and contributes to lower patient mortality rates. Numerous studies have shown that safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios result in higher quality care for patients, lower health care costs, and a better workplace for nurses. This bill will improve the health of patients by improving nursing care—establishing minimum registered nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals, providing whistleblower protections to nurses who advocate on behalf of their patients, and investing in training and career development to retain hardworking nurses in the workforce. The pandemic has only magnified the need to support nurses in their work. It is past time that we act on the evidence and give nurses the support they deserve and put patients over profits. I will continue to partner with nurses across the country in promoting this bill and fighting to end dangerous staffing.”