Nurse Union Leaders Speak Out for Federal Safe Staffing Ratios

July 2008

Nurses in California fought hard for a law to ensure safe staffing ratios, and patients are better off for it. Why shouldn’t nurses and patients all over the country benefit from this vital tool to improve health care? Barbara Blake, RN, UNAC/UHCP state secretary, traveled to Washington, D.C. , recently to brief health care experts from the staffs of members of Congress about the importance of safe staffing.

“Nurses must be vigilant observers and skilled evaluators of a patients’ physical, psychological, and medical status,” Blake told the congressional staffers. “When you have too many sick patients and too few nurses, hospitals create a system vulnerable to error and near-errors.”

California’s landmark safe staffing ratios law is making a huge difference in improving this situation, making it easier to attract and retain nurses, Blake said at the briefing, sponsored by RNs Working Together, the largest organization of working registered nurses with more than 200,000 members from 10 AFL-CIO unions.

Read more about Blake’s testimony on the AFL-CIO’s blog, and download an updated flier listing the California staffing ratios.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois is trying to establish federal minimum nurse-to-patient ratios. Her bill, H.R. 2123, would decrease preventable hospital deaths and protect both patients and staff.

“This bill is not going to pass overnight,” says Steven Francy, executive director of RNs Working Together. “It’s going to be a long, hard struggle that’s just beginning.” As California nurses know, the struggle is worth it.