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Nurses Join Legislators to Introduce Safe Patient Limit Bills to Save Lives

Nurses say the law, championed by nurse and legislator State Sen. Marie Collett, RN, and State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, is needed to solve the patient care crisis.

HARRISBURG, PA — On Wednesday, March 20, nurses from across Pennsylvania filled the capitol steps and were joined by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce legislation that will literally save lives.

Denelle Weller, RN from Central Pennsylvania, spoke at the event as not just a nurse, but as a mother.

Denelle Weller, RN from Central Pennsylvania, spoke at the event as not just a nurse, but as a mother.

“Safe staffing is important to me because we need experience at the bedside and nurses are leaving due to burn out. It’s imperative as a new nurse to pull from the experience of a seasoned, qualified professional,” said Debbie Vandouver, RN, from York. “When nurses leave the bedside our patients suffer tremendously and are adversely affected by the lack of experience. The question is, if this was you or your family member would you want them to get the proper care they need? Because the only way to do that is to demand safe staffing limits legislation.”

The group was there to introduce House Bill 876 / Senate Bill 450, legislation for safe patient limits, which will limit the number of patients a nurse can be assigned, depending on the level of care required. Because the limits were set by nurses, it ensures a minimum standard of care that every person deserves.

Senator Maria Collett (D-12), who is also a Registered Nurse, is sponsoring the Senate bill and shared her own experiences. “As a bedside nurse, I’ve personally seen the impact that inadequate staffing can have on patient care. Study after study shows that safe staffing reduces adverse events, improves outcomes and saves lives.”

Sen. Collett was elected to the legislator as a champion for safe patient limits with large support from nurses. She explained the legislation is urgently needed because, “We are talking about a public health crisis. It’s scary enough when you or a loved one enters a hospital. But when widespread nurse understaffing puts patients at increased risk, we must demand safe patient limits here in Pennsylvania.”

Numerous studies show that safely staffed hospitals have lower mortality rates1, shorter emergency room wait times2, and can drastically lower the readmission rates of pediatric patients3.

Denelle Weller, RN from Central Pennsylvania, spoke at the event as not just a nurse, but as a mother.

“I have personally watched nurses go through entire shifts without a break, unable to eat or even go to the bathroom. I witnessed a nurse rushing so much that a critical mistake was nearly made on my own daughter,” said Weller. “It made me angry and sad. Sad that this nurse could not safely deliver care because of the confines of her assignment that night, and angry because nurses have, for literal decades, practiced under the guise that we actually have to deliver care this way.”

The toll of the staffing crisis isn’t just felt by patients. The nursing profession is being deeply impacted. A federal workforce study indicates that Only 76% of Registered Nurses in PA are currently employed as nurses, and 6% are unemployed4.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, co-sponsor of the legislation, explained why he has been so supportive of Safe Patient Limit laws says, “This is an important bills for patients and a powerful bill for nurses, this press conference shows that we have a real momentum for this bill, and it’s time we take action for safe patient limits.”

Nurses at the event are from advocacy group Nurses of Pennsylvania and unions — SEIU Healthcare PA and Pennsylvania Association of State Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP). Together, the group represents nearly 20,000 nurses across the state.

Before and after the event, they visited lawmakers to urge them to support the bills.

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1http://www.massnurses.org/files/file/Legislation-and-Politics/JAMA-Jan-20-2016-Comparison.pdf

2https://www.massnurses.org/files/file/Diagnostic%20Eval%20for%20ED%20patients.pdf

3http://www.massnurses.org/files/file/Legislation-and-Politics/An_Observational_Study_May_2013.pdf

4https://bhw.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/bhw/nchwa/projections/NCHWA_HRSA_Nursing_Report.pdf

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