WARREN, PA – Nurses from across Pennsylvania concluded their Nurses Week celebrations in Rep. Kathy Rapp’s hometown this weekend with a solemn funeral procession and memorial for patients that have been lost due to unsafe staffing. Rep. Rapp is the chair of the House Health Committee and has refused to advance the Patient Safety Act (HB 106) that would set safe staffing standards for nurses in hospitals.
“Rep. Rapp is choosing to stand with hospital lobbyists rather than nurses and patients by blocking this bill,” said Eileen Kelly, a retired nurse from Warren who helped organize the memorial. “We need immediate action on this bill. It will make our hospitals safer for patients. It will prevent moral injury to nurses, and will bring more nurses back to the bedside.”
Four years ago, nurses delivered thousands of petitions on stretchers to the Pennsylvania State Capitol calling on the General Assembly to pass safe staffing standards in Pennsylvania hospitals. Rep. Rapp promised nurses a committee hearing on safe staffing legislation but has yet to hold one. Research shows that staffing standards could have helped save the lives of more than 1,000 surgical patients during that time, not to mention similar positive impacts on other aspects of care. Rep. Rapp’s delay costs Pennsylvanians their lives and causes moral injury to nurses.
“Every day we work short staffed, patients are at risk, and we’re working short-staffed every single day,” said Karen Hipple, a licensed practical nurse from Titusville. “We need Rep. Rapp and everyone else in the General Assembly to realize the dire consequences of their inaction.”
Hospital executives created the nurse staffing crisis in the pursuit of higher profits and legislation to hold them accountable is needed to solve it. In one recent example of the pressure knowingly put on nurses, a newsletter from a unit at UPMC Altoona that sparked outrage from nurses on social media this past weekend stated that nurses may be asked to take eight patients. The newsletter acknowledged that “This is not ideal, nor is it safe, but this is a direct order coming from upper management … and refusal to take 8 when asked to may result in an HR trip.” With the Patient Safety Act, nurses of this type of unit would be capped at four patients.
In addition to saving lives, safe staffing standards will also help solve the workforce crisis by encouraging nurses to come back to the bedside. Pennsylvania hospitals have an average nurse vacancy rate of 27%. In a recent survey of nurses that have left their jobs in the last two years, nearly half said they were likely to consider working at the bedside if the Patient Safety Act passed compared to only 11% under current conditions.
“We’ve lost too many nurses and too many patients waiting for Kathy Rapp. She needs to live up to the promise she made and hold a hearing on the Patient Safety Act so we can have a vote. Patients need it and Pennsylvania is demanding it,” said Katrina Rectenwald, RN, an ICU nurse from Pittsburgh.
# # #
Nurses of Pennsylvania is a non-profit organization of, by, and for nurses focused on improving the bedside care nurses provide. PA nurses work in cities and small towns, at large hospitals, in nursing homes, and more—tied together by their commitment to their patients, their families, and their communities. United for quality care, Nurses of Pennsylvania is focused on leading the state to a healthcare system that gives nurses a seat at the decision-making table and puts patients first.