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Bemidji nurses advocate at Capitol for Standards of Care Act

ST. PAUL  – About 20 nurses from Sanford Bemidji Medical Center joined hundreds of nurses from across the state to travel to the Minnesota state Capitol to advocate for a new bill, the Standards of Care Act, that nurses say would ensure the safety of hospital patients in the state.

The Minnesota Nurses Associated said in a news release that the bill takes a fresh approach to a foundational goal of professional nursing in Minnesota of minimizing risk to patients in acute care settings.

The association is advancing a revised version of proposed legislation the organization has championed since 2008. The Standards of Care Act makes it incumbent upon hospitals to ensure enough nurses are on duty according to patient needs per unit and per shift. The bill further states that, in developing patient assignments, hospitals will abide by nationally accepted, evidence-based standards established by professional specialty nursing organizations. In addition, assignment limits would be adjustable for patient acuity and nursing intensity. The measure would also enforce consequences for facilities that fail to meet these standards.

“Nurses feel we no longer have a choice but to take this issue to the Capitol,” Colleen Floura, a registered nurse at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center, said in the release. “We’re hoping to secure statewide legislation that ensures minimum staffing standards in acute care hospitals.”

Standards for safe staffing have been studied and set by national safety organizations. Nurses routinely report unsafe staffing situations, but they are increasingly told to “make do” by their employers, which choose to put profits over patients’ safety, the release stated.

“The number of patients that I care for is not based on how sick those patients are,” Floura said. “In fact, we are repeatedly told that the staffing matrix in place is a guideline only, and are forced to take a greater patient load than what is safe.”

More than 60 research studies show that safe RN staffing levels eliminates unnecessary complications, reduces preventable medical errors and curbs extended hospital stays, thereby reducing risks to patients and saving precious health care dollars.

“Nurses across the state agree that patient safety is the most important issue in hospitals today, and they’ve come to the Capitol to ask lawmakers to pass policy that’s good for all Minnesota patients,” MNA President Linda Hamilton said.

Visit the website for a comprehensive list of relevant studies and findings related to RN staffing levels and patient safety.