Oregon nurses fight for staffing mandates; hospitals call them punitive

The Oregon Nurses Association plans to introduce a bill that will limit the number of patients a hospital nurse can be assigned — a measure hospitals oppose, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Nov. 2. 

The union's bill, unveiled at a Nov. 2 news conference, would impose regulations on staffing ratios in hospitals, with the nurse-patient allowance varying across departments, according to the broadcast station. If passed, Oregon would join Massachusetts — which regulates staffing only in intensive care units — and California as the only states with similar laws. 

Nurses drafted the bill — set to be introduced by state Rep. Rob Nosse — in response to current staffing shortages, which they say lead to unsafe conditions for patients and providers, the broadcast station reported. Caring for too many patients makes it difficult for nurses to take breaks on their 12-hour shifts, causing high rates of burnout and turnover. Additionally, it delays care for some patients and can lead to violence, the union said. 

Allison Seymour, BSN, RN, the ONA's secretary, told the broadcast station she quit bedside nursing one year ago, saying understaffing led to burnout. "Patients were not getting their basic needs met," she said. "There were delays in getting meals, delays in going to the bathroom. People weren’t getting baths."

The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, meanwhile, said the union wants to "punish" community hospitals with this law, according to the broadcast station. Hospitals said they will not be able to hire enough nurses to reach the ONA's requirements and will be forced to cut services if the bill passes. 

The hospital association plans to draft its own bill, the broadcast station reported. The group will propose measures that could expand the nursing workforce, such as tax credits for nurse educators, incentives for hospitals to provide clinical placements and student loan compensation for nursing students. 

Both bills will be introduced during Oregon's 2023 legislative session, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting

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