April 25, 2023

Minnesota Senate Approves Major Nurse Staffing Bill

Minnesota Senate Approves Major Nurse Staffing Bill

A nurse staffing bill in Minnesota cleared one major hurdle and may soon be headed to the Governor's desk. The MN Senate approved the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act last week, and it's expected to pass in the House next.

In a Minnesota Nurses' Association (MNA) Facebook post, the chief author of the bill Sen. Erin Murphy, RN, praised the vote. 

"This legislation is a bipartisan compromise arrived at after more than a decade of negotiation. Giving nurses a powerful voice at the table will result in safer hospitals and better patient care for everyone across the state."  

Safe Staffing Committees in Hospitals

Arguably, the most contentious portion of the proposed law would require hospitals to include direct care staff in hospital staffing committees. These committees would be required to,

  • Create annual core staffing plans

  • Determine maximum safe nurse-to-patient ratios

  • Develop contingency plans

  • Include direct-care nurses as at least 35% of committee membership

Charge nurses and nursing management would still make short-term staffing decisions to ensure safety in patient care units. New York passed similar legislation in 2021.

Increase Transparency and Incentivize Nursing

The proposed legislation also aims to increase transparency for patients when they arrive at the emergency department. For example, provisions would require hospitals to provide real-time information regarding wait times and staffing levels.

Efforts to improve nurse retention and education include funding to

  • Increase student loan forgiveness funding

  • Incentivize nurses to become instructors

  • Scholarships to cover student childcare costs

  • Mental health grants for healthcare workers

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Opponent Reactions 

Not everyone is excited about this legislation. In a March press release, the Minnesota Hospitals Association states

"If implemented, these harmful mandates will reduce our ability to provide care, leading to potential unit closures, increased costs, longer wait times for patients, and the loss of vital health care services that communities rely on," warned Dr. Rahul Koranne, president and CEO of the MHA.

“As our hospitals and health systems continue to grapple with the ongoing challenges of discharge backlogs, unprecedented workforce shortages and very difficult finances, it is critical to understand the potential impacts before implementing any changes that could have far-reaching consequences.”

Republican Senator Paul Utke voted against the bill, stating, "Hospitals will be paying for all their employees to serve on the various staffing and workload committees, and in the meantime, those shifts will need to be covered by other hospital care professionals."

Nurses may be leaving the bedside for a wide variety of reasons, but really it boils down to safety. Nurses have been advocating for decades to provide safe, effective care. The new legislation in Minnesota won't solve systemic problems overnight, but it is a step in the right direction.


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