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Lifesaving Bills Filed in Florida Legislature to Guarantee Patient Safety Improvements

Press Release Press Release, 3/10/10

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Rep. Braynon and Sen. Hill File Florida Hospital Patient Protection Act of 2010 After Hundreds of Florida RNs March on Capitol

National Nurses Organizing Committee-Florida and National Nurses United today announce that the Florida Hospital Patient Protection Act of 2010 has been filed in the state legislature by authors Rep. Oscar Braynon and Sen. Tony Hill and will be known as HB 1283 and S 2316.

The bill will improve conditions and outcomes for patients in hospitals, while also lessening Florida’s nursing shortage by drawing RNs to work in safe and therapeutic conditions.  The Florida Hospital Patient Protection Act will:

  • Guarantee a safe ratio of RNs to patients on every unit in every hospital in Florida.  Research has identified unsafe nurse staffing as a key factor for sentinel events in units throughout hospitals.
  • Establish whistle-blower protections for RNs who expose unsafe conditions
  • Assure RNs the legal guarantee to serve as patient advocates

Research has shown that a primary cause of medical errors and sentinel events in hospitals around the country is nurse under-staffing, when RNs are assigned more than the maximum safe number of patients to care for.  This bill would end that problem and give registered nurses the legal protections they need to stand up to any instances of patient endangerment they witness.  These protections would save lives, and draw RNs back into the profession.

“When patients are denied access to a medically-appropriate level of nursing care, their outcomes suffer. It’s that simple, and it is totally preventable.  Many hospitals under-staff their units, denying access to RNs, and undermining patient safety in the name of hospital profits.  The Florida Patient Protection Act will extent to my patients the level of care they deserve,” said Barbra Rivera, an RN from St. Petersburg.

“Nurses are on the front line of healthcare and with reform on the horizon it is important for us to protect them and the patients they serve,” said Rep. Oscar Braynon.  “This bill does just that and will put Florida at the forefront of quality patient care.”  “Finally with this bill Florida RNs  will be able to do what they were trained to do, put patient safety first and advocate for patients without fear of retaliation,” added Sen. Tony Hill.

The primary sponsors of the bills are the nurses of NNOC-Florida, a professional association and union for RNs.  NNOC-Florida is the state chapter of the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) and is affiliated with National Nurses United, the new national union of RNs, founded in December 2009 and composed of 150,000 nurses from every state in the country.  They are joined in supporting the bill by colleagues from SEIU Healthcare Florida and SEIU 1991, a professional association and union for RNs and healthcare workers.

BACKGROUND on the Florida Hospital Patient Protection Act of 2010

Reflecting the hopes and dreams of nurses and patients--and the best scientific evidence—the Florida Hospital Patient Protection Act of 2010 will improve patient outcomes and draw nurses back to bedside by allowing them to practice their profession safely. The act will:

  • Guarantee a safe ratio of RNs to patients on every unit in every hospital in Florida.  Research has identified unsafe nurse staffing as the cause of many sentinel events for hospitals patients today.
  • Assure RNs the legal guarantee to serve as patient advocates.
  • Establish real whistle-blower protections for RNs who expose unsafe conditions.

The benefits of safe nurse-to-patient ratios for Florida hospitals:

Nurse-to-patient staffing in Florida hospitals is in crisis, with RNs juggling up to nine extremely ill patients at a time.

  • There has been a more than 40% percent increase in active RN licenses since a similar law was signed in 1999, suggesting its appeal to RNs – California Board of Registered Nursing, 2008
  • Studies show that each additional patient an RN is assigned increases the risk of patient death by seven percent – Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, May, 2007. 
  • Increasing the number of full-time RNs on staff per day by one, there were nine percent fewer hospital-related deaths in intensive care units, 16 percent fewer in surgical patients, and six percent fewer in medical patients – Healthcare Risk Management, February 2008.
  • Cutting RN-to-patient ratios to 1:4 nationally could save as many as 72,000 lives annually, and is less costly than many other basic safety interventions common in hospitals, including clot-busting medications for heart attack and PAP tests for cervical cancer – Medical Care, Journal of the American Public Health Association, August 2005.
  • A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in October 2002 linked higher patient loads with a 15 percent increase in nurses’ dissatisfaction with their jobs.
  • Cancer surgery patients are safer in hospitals with better RN-to-patient ratios. A study of 1,300 Texas patients undergoing a common surgery for bladder cancer documented a cut in patient mortality rates of more than 50 percent – Cancer Journal of the American Cancer Society.

Safe nurse to patient ratios are working across the country.

“I work in a medical unit where a majority of our patients are diabetic and require lots of teaching and monitoring. Our night-shift RNs used to have nine to 12 patients before the ratios were in effect. We could never keep a core nursing staff on nights. As a result of the ratio law we don’t have more than five patients, which gives us the time we need to do patient teaching and has dramatically improved patient outcomes and nurse retention. Before the ratios, with too many patients to safely care for, many nurses left the profession,” said Mary Bailey, RN, Medical Unit, Long Beach Memorial Hospital.

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