Nurses Lobby to Address Nursing Shortage

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A record turnout of nearly 600 registered nurses and nursing students attended the 21st Annual Nurse Legislative Day. With the current and impending nursing shortage, strategies to address both the recruitment and retention of registered nurses were the focus of the event. Governor Gary Locke delivered the keynote address.

"Our record turnout of nurses and nursing students from every part of the State demonstrates the critical nature of the nursing shortage and its effect on every facet of health care. Legislators and the governor must act to increase nursing education programs at every state college and university," said Louise Kaplan, PhD, ARNP, WSNA president.

The root causes of the nursing shortage are complex and interrelated. In order to attract more people into the profession and increase diversity, the Washington State higher education system must at minimum, expand capacity of programs so that qualified applicants to nursing programs are not turned away. In the meantime, we must also establish safe staffing standards to ensure safe patient care during this time of an accelerated nursing shortage. Here are WSNA's legislative recommendations for addressing the nursing shortage:

1. Nursing Enrollment Slots Funding -- Nursing programs in Washington

State are turning away hundreds of qualified students every year due

to a lack of funding. We support the designation of at least 500

fully funded RN slots in the 1,550 high demand FTE enrollment slots

proposed by the Governor.

2. Nursing Faculty Funding -- Many nursing programs are not running at

full capacity due to their lack of funds to recruit and retain

sufficient faculty. We must have an increase for RN faculty

salaries at community colleges by funding increments in the

operating budget and an increase in faculty salaries at the four-

year universities through recruitment and retention funding

designated specifically for RN faculty in the operating budget.

3. Funding to Increase Capacity -- In order to meet the projected

demand of registered nurses in Washington State over the next

decade, we must invest money in schools for expanding physical

capacity such as labs and classrooms and provide appropriate support

of new nursing programs. We support capital budget allocation for

both community colleges and universities for expansion of physical

capacity of nursing programs.

4. Scholarships and Loan Repayment -- The Health Professions

Scholarship and Loan Repayment program is essential in attracting

more men and ethnic diversity to the profession. This program

retains nurses after graduation practicing in areas that are

underserved and rural areas so that the State does not need to rely

on foreign nurses from other countries that are also experiencing

nursing shortages. We support an increase in Higher Education

Coordinating Board Health Professions Scholarship & Loan Repayment

program funding by $1 million dollars in the operating budget. The

current $2.67 million for the program has not had an increase since

1994.

5. Patient Safety Act -- Recent studies have confirmed that RN staffing

has a direct correlation to the safety of patient care. Inadequate

staffing and lack of input are major reasons registered nurses leave

acute care nursing. The Patient Safety Act (HB 1602/SB 5598)

provides nurses with an opportunity to give meaningful input toward

nurse staffing in order to ensure quality patient care and increased

job satisfaction.

6. Mandatory Overtime SB 5419/HB 1604 -- Extend protection from

mandatory overtime for nurses to additional settings such as jails,

state hospitals, and state veteran's homes.

Founded in 1908, WSNA is a constituent of the American Nurses Association and is recognized by the National Labor Relations Board as a collective bargaining agent. WSNA represents and promotes the professional development of more than 12,000 nurses in Washington state and their economic and general welfare by projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by informing the Legislature and regulatory agencies of health care issues affecting registered nurses and the citizens of Washington state.

Source: Washington State Nurses Association

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