The Safe Patient Care Act, a bipartisan plan to support registered nurses and ensure quality care for patients, has recently been introduced in the Michigan legislature. The plan, made up of three bills, will set a limit on the nurse-to-patient ratio in hospitals, restrict forced overtime hours and require hospitals to be transparent with what these ratios are.
The first bill aims to ensure hospitals maintain a sufficient number of nurses on duty for the number of patients. Oftentimes hospitals may cut costs by understaffing nursing shifts, which can result in low-quality care for patients and increased health hazards for nurses. The bill will create a committee of at least 50% direct-care nurses in each hospital who will help to monitor staff levels and set a minimum nurse-to-patient ratio, which varies from unit to unit.
The plan has dozens of co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle in both the House and the Senate, including state Reps. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, and Roger Hauck, R-Union Township, and state Sens. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, and Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Rabhi said he has friends and family in the health care industry and understood the importance of supporting both health care workers and patients. Rabhi introduced the first bill to the Michigan Legislature.
“We need to make sure we are giving the best possible care to all of our patients in the hospitals in Michigan,” Rabhi said.
Nursing sophomore Zoe Brown said in an email to The Daily she supports this bill because it takes into account the difficulties nurses face in hospitals when they are assigned more patients than they can support.
“The less patients a nurse has, the more focused care each of them can receive,” Brown wrote. “It can be challenging at hospitals and care facilities with less staffing who assign nurses far more patients than they should ever be expected to take on.”
The second bill included in the Safe Patient Care Act limits the forced overtime hours that nurses work to prevent injuries. Under this legislation, direct-care nurses will only be required to work during their scheduled hours and must have eight hours off after a shift of 12 or more hours. These limits can be suspended during emergency situations, in the event that a patient is in the middle of a procedure, and nurses can volunteer to work overtime if they wish.
Nursing junior Ellie Matelic said in an email to The Daily that she believes this legislation is crucial in ensuring that the wellbeing of nurses is protected, so they can take better care of their patients.
“Nurses are the number one trusted profession, and have been for a long time, and it’s acts like this that will help us stay number one, so patients can continue to trust us and so nurses can give the best possible care to patients every day,” Matelic wrote. “It is unfair for a nurse to be required to work extensive hours, and it is also unfair to patients to be assigned to a nurse that is working at or well above the point of exhaustion.”
The third bill requires hospitals to disclose their nurse-to-patient ratios to patients before treatment so that patients can decide whether they would like to receive care from that hospital, a practice that hospitals are currently not required to follow. The bill attempts to have hospitals retain transparency, allowing patients to be more equipped to make informed choices before receiving care.
Rabhi said working on this bill with members from both sides of the aisle has been a great experience and that he is looking forward to continued work on this bill in the near future.
“This has been a really great experience so far,” Rabhi said. “We haven’t gotten a hearing on the bill yet, but I am hopeful that we can get something moving or at least have a hearing to have the conversation elevated.”
Similarly, Matelic said she is glad that there has been bipartisan support for the package, given how fundamental it is for patient care and hospital nursing treatment to be well supported.
“It is no surprise to me that this act is bipartisan,” Matelic said. “Supporting nurses and providing safe patient care should never be an argument between the left or the right. I am glad that both sides can agree on this issue and are doing something to help better the lives of nurses and their patients.”
Daily Staff Reporter Kate Weiland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.