Nurses speak on proposed Safe Patient Care Act

Nurses who are feeling burned out are hoping new legislation will help revitalize their profession.
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 10:39 PM EDT
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MID-MICHIGAN (WNEM) - Nurses who are feeling burned out are hoping new legislation will help revitalize their profession.

State lawmakers are considering limits on how many patients a nurse may care for and cracking down on mandatory overtime. The bills are similar to ones introduced in the past, but opponents warn they’ll do more harm than good.

“We were touted as heroes and we don’t feel like heroes anymore. We feel like the hospitals have forgotten about us,” said Jamie Brown, the president of the Michigan Nurses Association.

Lawmakers and registered nurses gathered at the capitol on Thursday, May 11 to announce their support for the legislation called the Safe Patient Care Act. They want what they call “safe limits” on the number of patients they can be assigned to.

“The ratios for med surg call for one nurse for every four patients. Right now, you have nurses taking care of eight to 10 patients on a med surg unit. In critical care, you can take care of three or four patients and this would cap us at one,” Brown said.

The key aspects of the legislation include limiting nurse-patient ratios, requiring hospitals to disclose nurse-to-patient ratios, and reducing forced overtime.

Brown said working 12-hour days can be emotionally and physically draining.

“And then when you have to work up to 16 and 20 hours, very rarely do you get a break,” she said.

Opponents of the legislation include the Michigan Organization for Nursing Leadership. Its president, Kim Meeker, said the legislation does nothing to address staffing shortages that have plagued hospitals and likely will only worsen current problems.

“Ultimately it would mean we have as many patients to take care of with fewer nursing resources which then means decrease in access,” Meeker said. “I’m talking about the closing of beds in hospitals. I’m potentially talking about hospitals closing.”

She said her organization is promoting education, tuition reimbursement, and making nursing licenses in other states active here as well.

On the other hand, Brown said there are 50,000 nurses in Michigan with active licenses who aren’t practicing.

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