Washington nurse staffing legislation becomes law

On April 20, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law staffing legislation aimed at addressing the healthcare worker shortage.

The bill requires hospitals to follow staffing standards. It does not establish specific, required patient-to-staff ratios in state law. However, hospital staffing committees would make ratio recommendations to their leadership, and executives would make adjustments and submit the plan to state officials, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal

Committees would be composed of 50 percent front-line staff and 50 percent hospital administration, a news release from Democratic state senators said. 

If hospitals fall below 80 percent compliance with their staffing plans, they are required to report noncompliance to the state. The state departments of health and labor and industries would then assign noncompliant hospitals a corrective action plan. Under the bill, hospitals that do not follow corrective action plans could face a fine of $50,000 per month.

The bill reflects a compromise between unions and the Washington State Hospital Association, according to a news release from unions shared with Becker's. Unions have pushed for specific, required patient-to-staff ratios at hospitals in state law, saying ratios could ease nurses' workloads. Hospitals expressed concerns that such ratios would lead to service cuts and closures if floors cannot be adequately staffed. 

"By creating an enforcement mechanism with real penalties, we can ensure safe staffing standards are followed rather than ignored, allowing workers to do their jobs safely and provide our loved ones the quality care they deserve," Washington Sen. June Robinson, sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. "Washington should be a place healthcare workers want to come and have long, successful careers — this is a necessary, meaningful step toward that goal."

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