FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(St. Paul) – May 2, 2022 – Minnesota nurses celebrated passage of the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act by the Minnesota House of Representatives today. The act, designed to retain nurses and protect patient care, passed the House as part of the Health & Human Services omnibus bill. While Minnesota nurses raised the alarm about chronic understaffing by hospital CEOs for years, today’s action is the first-ever vote by a body of the Minnesota Legislature to hold hospital executives accountable to provide safe staffing levels for patients and nurses in our hospitals.
“Minnesota nurses have fought for decades to change the way our hospitals are run, to put patients before profits and to protect quality patient care. Today’s vote is a historic step forward,” said Mary C. Turner, RN, President of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “I want to thank Representative Olson for listening to nurses, and the House of Representatives for acting. There is a crisis in our hospitals. We are overworked and overwhelmed, hospitals are understaffed, and patients are overcharged by hospital executives making millions. This bill is critical to help nurses stay in the jobs they love, to provide the safe, exceptional care our patients deserve.”
The Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act addresses the short-staffing and retention crisis to protect patient care in Minnesota by establishing local, flexible, hospital-based committees of nurses and managers who would work together to set staffing levels on a unit-by-unit basis, including a limit on the number of patients for which any one nurse is responsible. The bill would also fund grants to support mental health for healthcare workers and to prevent workplace violence. It would help recruit and retain the next generation of nurses with new funding for loan forgiveness programs.
“Nurses choose their line of work out of a remarkable spirit of caring for their fellow Minnesotans. Ever since COVID arrived, we’ve asked the world of them, but they’ve been facing a crisis since well before the pandemic,” said Rep. Liz Olson (DFL – Duluth), Chief House Author of the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act. “Nurses deserve more than just our thanks or hollow lip service that puts them on a pedestal as heroes, only to demand they continue working short-staffed with grueling hours and unacceptable patient-to-staff ratios. Today, by passing the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, the Minnesota House took an important step forward to ensure our nurses have the support they need to give patients the care they count on.”
The bill now heads to conference committee with the Minnesota Senate, where members of the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee expressed support for provisions of the bill. Sen. Michelle Benson (R- Ham Lake) introduced a bill to fund mental health resources for healthcare workers as called for by Minnesota nurses, and Sen. Jim Abeler (R – Anoka) signed on as a supporter of the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act. The bill also has the support of the Senate Minority Caucus and of Governor Tim Walz.
“Minnesota’s nurses are indispensable, providing care for the critically sick and dying under soul-crushing conditions,” said Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL – St Paul), Chief Senate Author of the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act. “We need them at the bedside, and now the Senate must act to pass this necessary policy so we can retain a strong, skilled workforce with adequate staffing in order to meet our high standards and expectations for care.”
Even as nurses and patients suffer understaffing and high healthcare costs, hospital CEOs continue to make millions in compensation and benefits as they focus on the bottom line. In the last two years, as the pandemic raged, many Minnesota hospital systems remained profitable with millions in revenue. In 2020, one hospital CEO was paid a $50 million golden parachute after spreading medical misinformation; the year before, another Minnesota hospital CEO received a raise of more than 90 percent, bringing his total compensation to $3.6 million per year. Hospital executives can afford to make the changes needed to fully staff our hospitals, protect workers, and put patients before profits.
“Nurses are leaving the bedside because of the crisis of understaffing, unsupportive management, and unsustainable working conditions in our hospitals,” said Becky Nelson, RN, Chair of MNA’s Government Affairs Commission. “That is why Minnesota nurses stood up to fight for safe hospitals and quality patient care at the Legislature this year. From our 22,000 nurses, 80 percent of all bedside nurses in Minnesota: thank you to those elected officials who stood with us and took action today to address the crisis of retention and short staffing, to put patient care first in our hospitals.”
The conditions executives created in Minnesota hospitals are driving nurses away from the profession, hurting patient care. A new report released in March identified poor management practices and chronic under-staffing as the top issues that drove nurses to quit. Minnesota continues to train more than enough nurses to meet needs here, and the state now has a record-high number of RNs, totaling 120,000 statewide. It will not matter how many nurses are trained or recruited if hospital CEOs continue to foster conditions that push nurses away.
About the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act
The bill as passed today by the Minnesota House in the Health & Human Services omnibus bill includes the following provisions.
- Establish Nurse Staffing Committees at Minnesota Hospitals – The bill would require all hospitals in the state of Minnesota to create a staffing committee of nurses, direct care staff, and management. This committee will put together a core staffing plan for each unit of the facility every year and will meet quarterly to determine if the staffing plan is still adequate to meet the needs of patients. Each staffing committee will be composed of at least fifty percent direct care nurses and staff.
- Set Limits on the Number of Patients Per Nurse – While providing flexibility across hospitals and units, under the bill each staffing committee plan must set a maximum limit on the number of patients that any one nurse should safely care for. Each staffing plan will also establish criteria for when a lower patient assignment would be appropriate.
- Recruit and Train Nursing Students – While Minnesota continues to train more than enough nursing students to meet the state’s need, this bill would dedicate new resources to ensure we continue to attract and train a skilled and diverse workforce of Registered Nurses in Minnesota. This includes broadening an existing student loan forgiveness program for new nursing instructors and allocating $5 million to launch a new student loan forgiveness program for nurses working at the bedside in Minnesota hospitals.
- Retain and Sustain Minnesota Nurses – The solution to the hospital retention crisis requires holding hospital CEOs accountable to safe staffing levels, but additional measures can help to support nurses working at the bedside. The bill also provides an annual appropriation of $50,000 for the Minnesota Department of Health to develop and implement violence prevention strategies for nurses and patients in Minnesota hospitals.
- Support Mental Health for Healthcare Workers – One significant effort funded by this bill would provide yearly $1 million grants for mental health programs for nurses and other healthcare professionals. The grants would be made available by the Minnesota Department of Health to hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities and organizations to fund new or existing efforts to make mental health services available to healthcare workers, especially those with barriers to accessing care.
- Review and Release Hospital Safety Data – The bill includes several provisions to make the decisions of hospital executives more transparent to the public, to hold CEOs accountable when data shows that there are safety or other staffing problems that need to be addressed. The bill would require the hospital staffing committees to review all Concern for Safe Staffing forms filed by nurses and patients to consider changes based on the data. The bill would also establish an annual report from the Minnesota Department of Health on Nursing Data. This new effort would conduct studies on the state of nursing in Minnesota, including trends in retention and why nurses are leaving direct care positions at hospitals.