FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Bill to staff and retain nurses to protect patient care falls to corporate interests; workplace violence protections, study on nurse staffing and retention, and childcare assistance and student loan forgiveness for nurses set to become law
(St. Paul) – May 22, 2023 – As the legislative session comes to an end at midnight, lead authors of the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act announced tonight that, due to the exemption demanded by and granted to Mayo Clinic Health System, the bill that previously passed in the Minnesota Senate and House no longer had enough votes to pass.
Instead, legislative authors announced agreement on a Nurse and Patient Safety Act that includes several nursing-related provisions previously part of the larger bill, including a study on nurse staffing and retention, new protections against workplace violence, and childcare assistance and student loan forgiveness for nurses. The compromise legislation is expected to pass both bodies of the Minnesota legislature before they adjourn tonight.
The following is a statement from Mary C. Turner, RN, President of the Minnesota Nurses Association on the Nurse and Patient Safety Act, followed by additional background on the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act.
“Today, my heart breaks for the patients in Minnesota. We came here to pass the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act. Because of the power and influence of corporate healthcare executives, that bill has died.
“Today’s outcome, and the events of the last three weeks, make clear that the outsized power of corporate executives is alive and well. It is alive and well in Minnesota, in the halls of power, and in the halls of our hospitals. The strong-arm bully tactics of hospital CEOs that all Minnesotans have suffered this last week are the same tactics nurses experience every day in the workplace.
“Brave legislative champions for the people – especially lead authors of this bill Senator Erin Murphy and Representative Sandra Feist, as well as Senator Jim Abeler, Senator Liz Boldon, Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic and Speaker Melissa Hortman – stood with nurses and did everything they could to resist the crushing power of corporate demands.
“We are thankful for their strong support, but make no mistake: these victories were not given by anyone in this building; they were demanded by nurses who spent hundreds of hours at the Capitol, many traveling hundreds of miles from Greater Minnesota, to testify on this bill and meet with their legislators. They held space in the halls of power and spoke out even when they risked retaliation or termination by their employers.
“I hope Minnesotans know how hard nurses fought for your care and safety. And I hope corporate executives and our public officials know that our fight is not over to put patients before profits in our healthcare system.”
There is a crisis of patient care and retention in our hospitals. While there are more than 130,000 registered nurses in Minnesota – up 8,000 from last year – thousands are leaving the bedside every year due to unsafe and unsustainable conditions in our hospitals, with unsafe staffing the number one issue driving nurses away. Poor hospital retention is impacting patient care in Minnesota. Last year, amid widespread short staffing and low nurse retention, the Minnesota Department of Health reported a 33 percent increase in adverse events in Minnesota hospitals, meaning more falls, bed sores, or even death inside the place where patients go to get better.The bipartisan Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act has been fifteen years in the making. The bill, a comprehensive, compromise approach to nurse staffing and retention, would have established committees of direct care workers and management at Minnesota hospitals to discuss staffing appropriately to deliver safe patient care on a hospital-by-hospital, unit-by-unit level. Under the bill, Minnesota hospitals would have been evaluated annually on patient care and whether they followed the staffing plans agreed to by the committees.
Nurses and legislators of both parties worked closely with hospital administrators and the Minnesota Hospital Association to make the bill something that could have worked for patients, nurses and hospitals across the state. Staffing committees like those included in the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act bill have been successfully implemented in other states with the support of hospital associations.
The Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act also included additional nurse recruitment and retention solutions now contained in the Nurse and Patient Safety Act, including workplace violence prevention, a study on the impact of staffing on nurse retention and student loan forgiveness for nurses.
To learn more about the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, click here.